Monday, May 17, 2021

ABA Pushes Forward With Racism Training Requirement for Law Schools

News from last Friday's Council meeting:

ABA Pushes Forward With Racism Training Requirement for Law Schools by Karen Sloan.

"A requirement that law schools train students in 'bias, racism and cross-cultural competency' is among a slate of changes to the law school accreditation standards that the American Bar Association is weighing.'"

"Should law schools be required to train students in bias, racism, and cross-cultural competency? The American Bar Association is asking legal educators and the public to weigh in."

"The ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar on May 14 advanced a slate of proposed changes to its law school accreditation standards, including a mandate that law students receive training on racism and bias at least twice during their legal studies."

"Under the revised standard, law schools would have to provide training on bias, racism and cross-cultural competency at the beginning of their law school careers, and at least one other time after that. That requirement could be fulfilled during orientation, guest lectures, courses on racism and bias in the law, and other 'educational experiences,' according to the proposed standard. Students would have to complete both trainings before starting clinics or field placements."

"But it remains to be seen how a bias and racism training requirement for law students will be received beyond the legal educators who have been lobbying for the change. The Council voted to put the proposed new requirements out for public notice and comment without any discussion or debate during the public portion of its meeting. It’s on track to take up the matter again when it next meets in August, after the public has had the opportunity to submit feedback. If the Council adopts the changes in August, it would then go before the ABA’s House of Delegates in February. If the House votes in favor, then new standards would be in place for the fall of 2022."

(Scott Fruehwald)

Here is the proposed language:

Standard 303:

c) A law school shall provide training and education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism: (1) at the start of the program of legal education, and (2) at least once again before graduation. For students engaged in law clinics or field placements, the second occasion for training and education will take place before or concurrent with their enrollment in clinical or field placement courses.

Interpretation 303-6: With respect to 303(a)(1), the importance of cross-cultural competency to professionally responsible representation and the obligation of lawyers to promote a justice system that provides equal access and eliminates bias, discrimination, and racism in the law should be among the values and responsibilities of the legal profession to which students are introduced.

Interpretation 303-7: Standard 303(c) may be satisfied by: (1) Orientation sessions for incoming students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism; (2) Guest lectures or trainings by experts in the areas of bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism; (3) Courses on racism and bias in the law; or (4) Other educational experiences that train students in cross-cultural competency. While law schools need not add a required upper-division course to satisfy this requirement, law schools must demonstrate that all law students are required to participate in a substantial activity designed to reinforce the skill of cultural competency and their obligation as future lawyers to work to eliminate racism in the legal profession.


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