August 1, 2012
ABA Considering Accreditation For Foreign Law Schools
The National Law Journal is reporting on the American Bar Association’s upcoming decision as to accredit law programs at foreign schools. The ABA has been going back and forth on this for the last several years. One committee is in favor of the move and another is not. Foreign schools look to accreditation as opening greater job opportunities for graduates. U.S. law students are not exactly thrilled with that prospect, the job market being what it is. I think the better job rationale is for students at foreign law schools to be able to qualify for bar exams and work in local offices of U.S. firms.
I doubt that the Department of Education has any particular feelings as to whether the ABA would or would not offer approval to schools outside of the United States. The individual state supreme courts might have something to say about this as it is their rules that mostly require graduation from an ABA approved school to sit for the bar.
The article brings up a good point about the practical aspects of managing foreign accreditation. How would the organization monitor foreign law programs? As of now the ABA sends inspection teams every seven years to schools. They, in turn, provide reams of statistics and other information via annual surveys in preparation for those inspections. Would the ABA hold foreign schools to the same process? And would they have to go through provisional accreditation before they receive final approval? Would foreign schools be required to use the LSAT for admission purposes? Law schools in India have adopted the test some two years ago. The ABA is still trying to figure out whether it will continue to require the test for U.S. Schools.
Much like the LSAT decision, the ABA has put off the foreign accreditation question several times. We’ll see what happens at the Annual Meeting that starts this week. [MG]