Ed. note: Welcome to the latest installment of The Dean’s Office, a series of posts on legal education by Dean David Yellen of the Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
The American Bar Association plays an important, but often misunderstood, role in legal education. Overall, I believe the ABA deserves mixed grades for its response to the current crisis. It did not cause the crisis, and it is implementing some valuable improvements. But its resistance to change stands in the way of a number of needed reforms.
First, some background. The Council and Accreditation Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education, not the ABA itself, is authorized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit law schools. DOE rules require an accrediting agency to be separate and independent from a trade association, so the Section operates essentially autonomously from the main ABA. ABA accreditation is critical to law schools because all states authorize graduates of ABA accredited schools to take the bar examination. Recently, the President of the ABA itself created the Task Force on the Future of Legal Education (on which I serve). The Task Force is an advisory group, though, with no accreditation authority.
Two key features of the ABA process are voluntarism and self-regulation….