Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

ABA Committee Approves Changes in Law School Accreditation Standards

ABA JournalABA Journal, ABA Committee Approves Proposed Changes in Law School Accreditation Standards:

An ABA committee has voted to approve a package of proposed changes in the law school accreditation standards covering facilities, equipment, technology, libraries and information services.

The proposed changes, unanimously approved Friday by the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar's Standards Review Committee, will be presented to the section's governing council at its Nov. 30 meeting in Denver. ...

The proposed changes, contained in two chapters of the law school accreditation standards, are more stylistic than substantive. One chapter deals with law libraries and information resources. The other addresses law school facilities, technology and equipment. ...

Under the current standards, law schools are required to maintain a law library that is an "active and responsive force" in the educational life of the school. The standards also require schools to provide the library with "sufficient financial resources" to support the school's teaching, scholarship, research and service programs, and to keep the library abreast of changes in technology.

Those requirements have led some critics to suggest—wrongly, in the view of section officials—that the current standards have contributed to the high costs of a legal education by mandating expensive expenditures on things like extensive library collections, faculty scholarship requirements and low teaching loads.

Under the proposed standards, law schools would be required to provide the library with the resources necessary to carry out the school's program of legal education, accomplish its mission and support scholarship and research. Libraries also would be required to maintain a "core collection" of essential materials, either through ownership or through a particular means of reliable access.

The current standards also require law schools to have physical facilities adequate for their current program of legal education and for anticipated growth. The proposed changes would require law schools to have sufficient facilities, technology and equipment to enable them to operate in compliance with the standards and to carry out their program of legal education.

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