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ABA Can’t Decide Whether Law Schools Need Tenure or Not

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The ABA is setting some policies that will possibly change the structure of most law schools; they have a 14 person Standards Review Committee that are updating what requirements are set for a law school to gain accreditation, but one issue in particular is contentious and has not been resolved: must law schools have a tenure policy in place to be accredited?

As early as 2010, it has been argued that the ABA’s “security of position” standard did not make a tenure system necessary for accreditation. If it didn’t, should it? The committee so far has made not one, but three proposals to submit to the ABA’s Council of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, and it might draft a fourth. The idea is to give them freedom in choosing their final option.

  
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The first proposal is to maintain the current standard that schools create a “tenure or a comparable form of security of position for full-time faculty.” The clinical faculty could rest secure in “a form of security of position similar to tenure,” but this would not apply to legal writing teachers – creating what some complain to be a caste system.

The second proposal would not require tenure at all, only some sort of long-term renewable contracts for five years or more. Schools would have freedom to create their own long-term programs.

“In this proposal, tenure is the safe harbor,” said Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director for accreditation and legal education, according to the National Law Journal. “You can go without tenure, but if you do, you have to prove that you are attracting and retaining a competent faculty and protecting academic freedom.”

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The third echoes the second, but would insist that legal writing and the clinical faculty be included in the same long term policy.

A fourth might be drafted as well, making no requirement for long term security of position. The committee hopes to make some decision during their meeting in July.



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