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Saturday, August 10, 2013

ABA Approves Dilution of Faculty Tenure, Employment Data Reporting Change Requested by CA, NY Law Schools

ABA Logo 2The Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar yesterday tentatively approved proposed amendments to the the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools:

ABA Journal, Legal Ed Council Tackles Faculty Tenure and Distance Learning as Part of Accreditation Review:

The most significant of the proposed changes would involve job protections for full-time faculty members. The council, following a lengthy debate, voted to send out two alternatives to the current standard, which is widely understood to require tenure or a comparable form of security of position for all full-time faculty members, except for clinical professors and legal writing instructors.

The first alternative, favored by a narrow plurality of council members, would require law schools to provide some form of security of position (short of tenure) to all full-time faculty members, including clinical professors and legal writing instructors. The other, which was a close second, would not require any form of security of position for anybody, but would require law schools to have policies and procedures in place to attract and retain a competent full-time faculty and to protect academic freedom.

Following the notice and comment period, the council plans to choose one of the two alternatives--or a variation--for final approval. It has also agreed to postpone final approval of any changes in the standards until the standards review committee completes its proposed overhaul of the standards.

Other tentative changes approved by the council Friday would increase the experiential learning requirement in the standards from one credit hour to six credit hours; increase the amount of credits law students may receive from distance learning courses from 12 to 15; and eliminate the current requirement that the student/faculty ratio be considered in determining whether a school is in compliance with the standards.

The council also narrowly voted Friday to approve a proposal from its data policy and collection committee to push back by a month–from Feb. 15 to March 15–the date on which law schools measure graduate employment outcomes and to move the deadline for reporting employment outcome data from March 15 to April 7.

National Law Journal, ABA Changes Graduate Data Collection Timeline:

The nine-months-after graduation jobs statistic is no more.

The ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar on Friday narrowly approved moving the timeline for collecting new graduation employment figures back one month. Henceforth, the law schools will report how many of their graduates have landed jobs requiring a legal education 10 months following graduation.

The change—which was made at the request of law deans in California and New York who said that delayed bar exam results and admissions in their states put them at a disadvantage in jobs reporting—was far from unanimous.

The Council was initially split nine to nine on the proposal, but incoming Council President Solomon Oliver, Jr., the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, cast the deciding vote in favor.

But some council members were not convinced that the move was really motivated by the best interests of prospective law students. ... “It would be a little disingenuous not to acknowledge the U.S. News motivations here,” [Boston University School of Law dean Maureen] O’Rourke said. “California and New York schools took a beating in U.S. News this year because of their placement data.”

Councilmember Len Strickman, who chairs the committee that proposed moving the collection timeline from nine months to ten, said that one thing that has changed is the percentage of legal employers who will only consider hiring graduates who have either passed the bar or are admitted. Thus, gathering employment data on March 15 as opposed to the current February 15 will both offer a fuller picture of the jobs, and level the playing field among schools in jurisdictions with different exam results reporting timelines. Prospective students will have a better head-to-head comparison between schools. ... But O’Rourke said that there was no data to back up the claim that more employers are increasingly waiting to hire graduates who have passed the bar. ...

The idea of moving the timeline up a month has been controversial since it was proposed. The Council received six written comments from interested parties: three from law school administrators who favor the change, two in opposition, and [an analysis of employment data by University of St. Thomas law professor Jerome Organ [of] ... how the nine-months-after-graduation statistic at law schools in California and New York compared to schools outside of those states].

Ohio State University law professor Deborah Merritt identified five potential problems with the change. ... Kyle McEntee, the executive director of Law School Transparency, said he was disappointed in the decision. He had submitted an earlier memo to the Council saying that moving the collection date back not only disadvantages prospective students but raises questions about the where the council’s priorities lie. “The Council is confused about its duties,” he said following the vote. “It’s not to protect the law schools or to ensure that legal education looks better.”

The new collection timeline will not go into effect for the most recent graduating class, but will be put in place for the Class of 2014. NALP executive director Jim Leipold said his organization will adjust its data collection timeline to be in line with the ABA’s new schedule.

Update:

By a narrow vote of 10-9, the ABA’s Legal Education Council has approved a proposal to move back the reporting date for new-graduate employment–from nine months after graduation to ten months after earning a degree. Kyle and I have each written about this proposal, and we each submitted comments opposing the change. The decision, I think, tells prospective students and the public two things.

First, the date change loudly signals that the entry-level job market remains very difficult for recent graduates, and that law schools anticipate those challenges continuing for the foreseeable future. ... Second, and more disappointing to me, the Council’s vote suggests a concern with the comparative status of law schools, rather than with the very real changes occurring in the profession.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage of the data collection timing change:

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage of the faculty tenure change:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/08/aba-approves-.html

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Comments

The move to ten-months out reporting is a sensible one; after all, let's recount all of the labor economics studies concluding that people out of work for nearly a year have the best shot of gaining employment. No, wait, that's not right. They all conclude that people are dead in the water after six months, even if they have better resumes than newly-unemployed job seekers. Perhaps the newly-discovered magic money-making ability of the Juris Doctorate will save everyone from reality...

The only thing moving the reporting date to ten months will accomplish is withholding crucial consumer information (i.e. how likely are you to find a job?) from prospective law students until after many deposits are due. Behold, the magic of regulatory capture in the ABA...

Posted by: Unemployed_Northeastern | Aug 10, 2013 4:16:20 PM