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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

ABA Accreditation for Law School in China and the U.S. Job Market

Peking The Asian Lawyer, ABA Accreditation for Law School in China Runs Up Against U.S. Job Fears:

Dean Jeffrey Lehman is generally pleased with the progress of the new law school he oversees. The former dean of University of Michigan Law School and onetime president of Cornell University has seen enrollment at the three-year-old school go from 53 extremely bright and highly motivated students per class to 80. ... The one sticking point has been accreditation by the ABA. Which seems like it should be a no-brainer, except that this law school is located in Shenzhen, China.

Lehman has long hoped to make the Peking University School of Transnational Law (STL) the first law school outside the United States to be accredited by the ABA, which would allow its graduates to take the bar exam in any U.S. state. ...

But that aim has run headlong into the still-weak U.S. legal job market. Fears of a tide of new overseas competition for scarce work were evident in many of the 60 comments the ABA received in response to a special-committee report released last fall recommending the accreditation section begin considering foreign schools.

"As a long-time ABA member, I have no doubt why so many people refuse to join the association or leave shortly after joining," wrote Kelley Drye & Warren partner Steven Moore. "This proposal makes absolutely no sense, unless we just want to implode the legal field in the United States and get our unemployment rate in the double digits for decades to come." ...

Several law school deans expressed concern that accrediting foreign schools would undermine their L.L.M. programs. Such programs, they argue, offer foreign law students critical immersion in U.S. culture they would not receive at overseas schools like STL. ...

The ABA has responded by postponing any decision on the matter while it consults with "stakeholders" like the state supreme courts that oversee admission of foreign lawyers to practice.

But if the ABA is ultimately swayed by arguments about the bad U.S. job market for lawyers, Lehman thinks that the organization should be forthright about it. "Then the ABA should announce they aren't accrediting any more law schools anywhere because there are too many lawyers," he says.

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Comments

Dear Paul,

Why is Dean Lehman taking the difficult road through the ABA, rather than applying to the New York State Court of Appeals to allow his overseas graduates to take the New York bar exam? The court has granted that permission to graduates of the NYU branch law school in Shanghai, and it might perhaps agree to certify his graduates, as well.

As chair of the subcommittee on accrediting overseas law schools of the New York State Bar Association Committee on Admission to the Profession, I have examined this question in depth.

Cheers,

Mary Campbell Gallagher, J.D., Ph.D.
Founder & President
BarWrite® and BarWrite Press
PO Box 1308 Gracie Station
New York, NY 10028-10010
212.327.2817

Posted by: Mary Campbell Gallagher | May 26, 2011 5:03:36 PM