Sunday, April 3, 2011

ABA Standards Review Committee appears to decline AALS request to "start over"

Regarding the ABA Standards Review Committee's open forum in Chicago yesterday, here's the report from the online ABA Journal:

A request that an ABA committee put a hold on its review of law school accreditation standards to consider the broader ramifications of its efforts on the future of legal education did not get much of a response.

The Association of American Law Schools made the request at a public hearing Saturday before the ABA Section of Legal Education's Standards Review Committee, which is meeting in Chicago this weekend to work on several draft chapters of the proposed new standards. Some of the initial recommendations have been controversial.

AALS President Michael Olivas asked the committee to reject any proposed changes that would weaken, rather than strengthen, legal education; to initiate a process that would allow "important constituencies" to understand and debate the proposals; and to undertake an independent, fact-based study of the actual cost drivers in legal education and their relationship to the accreditation process.

. . . .

Committee members didn't respond directly to the association's request. But one member of the committee—Loyola University-Chicago law school dean David Yellen—urged Olivas to "try a little harder" in the future to avoid mischaracterizing the committee's actions.

Yellen was referring to cited Olivas' contention that the committee had not given any thought to the philosophy underlying the standards and his claim that the committee had not engaged in a dialogue over the standards with other constituencies.

"Disagreement is great, but I urge you to adopt a different spirit than what is sometimes reflected in this letter," Yellen said.

Olivas said the association doesn't believe what the committee is doing constitutes a dialogue. "We'll just have to agree to disagree," he said.

Committee chair Donald J. Polden, dean of the Santa Clara University School of Law, said later he was both surprised and disappointed by the tenor of Olivas' letter. He said the committee, which has been working on the standards for 2½ years, has heard very little from the AALS until now.

Polden also said he hadn't heard anything that would persuade him the committee should stop what it's doing and start over.

"I'm just one vote," he said, "but as far as I'm concerned, they haven't made the case."

You can read the rest here.


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