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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ABA Is (Finally) Fast-Tracking Law School Accreditation Changes

ABA LogoABA Journal, ABA Committee Appears Poised to Approve New Law School Disclosure Requirements:

An ABA committee is moving quickly on a proposed new accreditation standard that would greatly expand the amount of consumer information law schools must publicly disclose to prospective students.

The Standards Review Committee, which met last weekend in Chicago, is now putting the finishing touches on its proposed changes to the standard, which it hopes to act on at its next scheduled meeting in Washington, D.C., in January.

The proposed changes would then go to the governing council of the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which could take up the committee's recommendations as soon as March. ...

If adopted, the proposed changes would more explicitly state the categories of basic consumer information that a law school is required to publicly disclose on its website, including admissions data, tuition and fees, enrollment data, curricular offerings, library resources and physical facilities.

The current proposal would also require a law school to post the bar passage rates and employment outcomes of its graduates by job status and employment type, including the number of graduates working in jobs requiring a law degree and the number of those who are not; and the number of unemployed graduates who are and who are not seeking work. The employment data, which will be contained in a chart to be referenced in the standards, is largely identical to the recommendations of the Questionnaire Committee, which the council will consider in early December.

Both proposals would also require law schools to disclose how many graduates are working in full-time or part-time jobs, whether those jobs are short-term or long-term and how many of them are funded by the school from which the job-holder graduated.

But the Standards Review Committee's current proposal, unlike the Questionnaire Committee's recommendation, would require law schools to disclose school-specific salary information about their graduates. It would also require that any information a school publishes about graduates' salaries clearly identify the number of salaries and the percentage of graduating students included. The Questionnaire Committee is proposing to rely on the National Association for Law Placement to provide statewide salary data.

Under the Standards Review Committee's current proposal, schools would also be required to disclose information about conditional or merit scholarships, including the number of students admitted under such scholarships in the previous three years and the number of students whose scholarships were subsequently reduced or eliminated.

The committee has yet to decide whether to make the Law School Admissions Test optional. But its current proposal says that a law school that does not require a LSAT test of all applicants must disclose the number of applicants who applied, were accepted and who graduated with and without submitting an LSAT score.

Finally, the committee is tentatively proposing that all information reported, posted or published by a law school be fair, accurate and not misleading, and that schools must use "due diligence" in obtaining and verifying such information.

Paul Campos (Colorado), Journey of a Thousand Miles:

A cynic might note that there's nothing like the prospect of hearings before the U.S. Senate to get an otherwise indifferent bureaucracy to suddenly spring into action. Be that as it may, this represents a sign of real progress, and welcome evidence that the public pressure being put on law schools is having an effect.

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"Finally, the committee is tentatively proposing that all information reported, posted or published by a law school be fair, accurate and not misleading, and that schools must use "due diligence" in obtaining and verifying such information."

It's sad that this actually has to be "tentatively proposed."

Posted by: ry | Nov 16, 2011 5:53:47 AM

I think information about the loan burdens of classes that have graduated would also be useful. Hiding this information is much more damaging to applicants trying to make up their minds...than messing with LSAT scores of incoming classes. If a school had to say, "Half of the class of 2012 is employed in the legal world, and their average salary as lawyers is $51,000 and their average debt load is $140,000" then the chickens would come home to roost in a good way. (Plus: "The other half of the class of 2012 is unemployed or unemployed in law, and their average salary is $14,000 and their debt load is $140,000.")

Because what happened in the recent past is that law schools would imply online that their grads were getting jobs and making an average $80,000 upon graduation. This was totally false but people in their early 20s are famously unwise and impulsive. So young men and women enrolled in those schools using totally misleading information about the benefit-risk ratio. The facts are that most law-school grads--maybe 80 per cent in some schools--have no chance of making enough money to pay off those debts. They certainly didn't enroll in those schools expecting that outcome.

Deans and professors of law have dealt with this cataclysm and their role in it by sheer denial. They have run the trains to the financial extermination centers quite effectively.

Some of those deans ought to be going to jail for nice fat 10-year sentences.

Posted by: Lowellguy | Nov 16, 2011 7:30:13 AM

Whistle when they finally scratch the unconstitutional "diversity" b.s. requiring law schools to admit and hire less qualified applicants for class and teaching slots. Perhaps having to be honest about passing and hiring will put a little impetus into kicking diversity to the curb.

Posted by: Clarice | Nov 16, 2011 7:41:29 AM