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ABA passes new law school standards

Law schools across the country will have to ensure they’re meeting new standards in order to keep their accreditation, after the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates approved a number of reforms at its annual meeting Monday.

The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law last week said they already meet most of the new requirements, which include measuring students’ “learning outcomes” and mandating students take a minimum of six credits of experiential learning, through programs like clinics and externships.

The ABA House approved most of the changes unanimously, the National Law Journal reported, but several proposals proved more contentious.

A provision requiring schools to demonstrate a commitment to diversity in student admissions and faculty and staff hiring passed, but not before some delegates raised concerns that its definition of diversity was too narrow — it specified gender, race and ethnicity, but left out disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.

U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. of Ohio, chairman of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar — the agency that has the power to accredit JD programs — said those additions would raise privacy concerns. The requirement ultimately passed without any changes.

The House also debated whether to continue prohibiting students from earning both credit and compensation for field placement programs, eventually voting to send the measure back to the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

The section — not the ABA itself — is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the accrediting agency for programs that lead to a J.D. degree, the ABA Journal notes. Therefore, the section has the final say on any changes in the standards.

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