Monday, August 4, 2014
This week the ABA House of Delegates will vote on major changes to law school accreditation standards that include, among other provisions, a requirement that every graduate complete a minimum of six credit hours of "experiential learning." Should it be approved, that requirement can be satisfied through clinical coursework, externships or other practice simulation courses. At present, the ABA only requires law schools to provide a single credit hour of "experiential" coursework for a student to graduate. The National Law Journal has more details:
ABA's House of Delegates prepares to vote on a sweeping revision of its accreditation standards.
To protect their accreditation, law schools will be under pressure to more closely assess student achievement and provide students with more practical skills training under a slate of legal education reforms headed for final consideration by the American Bar Association House of Delegates.
Faculty tenure would remain sacrosanct, and students still would be barred from earning both money and course credit for externships under draft standards headed for a vote by the delegates on Aug. 11.
"If there was a theme to what the comprehensive review accomplished, it moved legal education into a 21st century model in two ways," said Loyola University Chicago School of Law Dean David Yellen, who spent four years on the committee reviewing the standards. "One is by requiring schools to assess their achievement in student learning. The second is requiring more practical skills training."
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One of the most substantive proposed changes involves "student leaning outcomes." Each law school would define its mission — what it is attempting to teach — and would measure how well it succeeds. Administrators would have plenty of leeway in defining their learning goals, but would now be judged less on the nuts-and-bolts of running a law school and more on results of those efforts.
"I think the change to outcomes measures presents law schools with a real opportunity to define and present themselves differently and set goals and benchmarks for themselves," said Kate Kruse, director of clinics at Hamline University School of Law and past president of the Clinical Legal Education Association. "The door is really open to do things in a different way."
Second, every law graduate would have to complete a minimum of six credits of "experiential learning" — clinics, externships or simulation courses. Kruse's association unsuccessfully lobbied for 15 credits but has accepted the compromise. Right now, the requirement is a single hour's credit.
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