The U.S. Department of Education provides oversight of postsecondary institutions or program accreditation by reviewing federally recognized accrediting agencies. There is one such agency for accreditation of legal education institutions or programs: The American Bar Association's Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. The Secretary of Education, by law, is the official responsible for recognition of accreditation agencies based on her determination that the agency is a reliable authority as to the quality of education or training provided by the entities and programs the agencies review. The Secretary of Education has exercised that authority to recognize the ABA's Council as the single accreditation agency for legal education. The ABA has held this position since its adoption of comprehensive standards in 1973—nearly fifty years.
But the ABA writ large is an organization in decline as its substantial drop in membership—and resulting revenue—demonstrates. At the same time that ABA membership is declining, the ABA's public and official positions on cultural and divisive issues remain. And now those positions are taking root not just in the ABA's policy bodies but also within the Council itself. Most recently, the Council adopted new "anti-bias" educational requirements as part of its accreditation standards.
Hon. W. Scott Bales, Former Chief Justice, Arizona Supreme Court
Prof. William Jacobson, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Securities Law Clinic, Cornell Law School
Dr. Nicholas Lawson, Commissioner, ABA Commission on Disability Rights
Prof. Derek T. Muller, Professor of Law, University of Iowa College of Law
Moderator: Hon. Trevor N. McFadden, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia