“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. “One is by requiring schools to assess their achievement in student learning. The second is requiring more practical skills training.”
The review of the standards began in 2008 by the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. It was tasked by the Department of Education to oversee law schools.
One of the most important changes will deal with “student learning outcomes.” Every law school will need to define its mission, what it wants to teach, and how it will measure its success.
“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.”
Another change involves the requirement of every law graduate completing six credits of ‘experiential learning.’ This includes simulation courses, externships or clinics.
With the changes, law schools would not be required to hire one full-time equivalent faculty member for every 30 students. There will also be no guarantees of full-time faculty members receiving offices either.
Students would not be limited to 20 hours of work per week outside of their studies either. They would be allowed to take 15 credit hours using the internet, which is an increase from the 12 credits allowed previously.
“On paper, I’d have to say that this is a pretty significant slate of changes,” said Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director for accreditation and legal education. “Certainly there is much more substance and scope in this compared to the previous comprehensive review.”