American Bar Association / ABA, Law Professors, Law Schools

ABA Takes on Law Schools… Over Tenure

Is the American Bar Association going to deal with the unmitigated proliferation of law schools? No. Will the ABA deal with overflow of lawyers entering the profession at a time when few well-paying legal jobs seem to be available? No. Will the organization seriously address the rising cost of legal education? Not really.

Instead, the ABA committee on law school accreditation wants to take a look at tenure. The National Law Journal reports:

Should the American Bar Association require law schools to maintain a tenure system?

The committee reviewing the ABA’s accreditation standards doesn’t think so. It has floated a proposal that would eliminate the term “tenure” from the ABA standards covering job security and academic freedom. The committee also wants to kill a requirement that law schools provide clinical faculty members with job protections similar to those enjoyed by full-time professors.

Excuse me, I’m gonna need to throw my coffee cup at something…

With all the problems going on in legal education, the ABA wants to focus on tenure. Really? Isn’t that like trying to combat global warming by mandating increased reliance on winter sweaters?

If we see the whole board, it’s likely that tenure does increase the cost of legal education. But strangely the economic argument isn’t even one that the ABA wants to make head-on:

Standards Review Committee Donald Polden, dean of Santa Clara University School of Law, said that critics have rushed to judgment and that the committee still has months of work before it will produce a final draft.

“There have been a few people who have argued that what we are doing is an attack on tenure,” said Polden. “The reality is that the current standards do not require law schools to have tenure.” He noted that the authorities that accredit medical schools and pharmacy schools do not require tenure.

If you’re going to go after tenure, tell us that it’s a significant cost driver of out-of-control law school tuition. Tell us that it hurts the quality of teaching. Don’t insult our intelligence and say that it’s a minor rules clarification that could (ahem) fundamentally change the careers of law school professors everywhere.

And speaking of the quality of education, haven’t employers been on their hands and knees begging law schools to produce students with more practical experience? Is now really the time that you want to devalue clinical professors?

Don’t get me wrong, there is a great chance the obsession with tenure exhibited by law school professors is hugely problematic for legal education.

But you have to pick your battles. For the ABA to fight this battle at this time, when there are so many others that need fighting… it’s just very surprising.

Fundamentally, we’re looking at the ABA and law professors fighting amongst themselves, while the classes of 2011 and 2012 continue to wither on the vine.

Law Faculty Upset Over ABA’s Proposed Tenure Shift [National Law Journal]

Earlier: Obsession With Tenure And Money Likely to Ruin the Future of Legal Education

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