Legal education council delays action on questionnaire guidance

Annual Meeting

- Legal education council delays action on questionnaire guidance

Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education. ABA Journal file photo by the Canadian Press Images/Michael Desjardins.

As the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar awaits action on a proposal to eliminate an admissions test requirement for law schools, its council postponed decisions on new guidance for annual questionnaires, which are used for 509 Reports.

Part of the Friday’s discussion, held during ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, centered on whether guidance needs to be issued now, since the questionnaires are not due until Oct. 18, according to existing direction. Alternatively, some thought it could be helpful it law schools knew sooner, rather than later, what could be expected for the questionnaires.

In May, the council approved a proposal to cut Standard 503 requiring the tests and to beef up Standard 501 to include the use of admission credentials and academic attrition when determining accreditation compliance. The current version of Standard 503 requires that law schools using tests other than the LSAT demonstrate that the alternate exams are valid and reliable in determining whether a candidate can complete the school’s legal education program.

Under ABA rules, the House of Delegates reviews accreditation standard revisions, and it can send a proposed rule back to the council twice for review with or without recommendations. The House is expected to act on the test proposal when it meets Monday and Tuesday, but the council has the final decision on matters related to law school accreditation.

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Materials shared at the meeting show a proposed annual questionnaire format with questions about non-LSAT entrance exams used, including scores and percentiles.

“We’re moving a little slowly laying the framework,” said Barry Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education. “We want to avoid having schools call and say ‘I entered all of the data, now you are changing the question on me.’ ”

Some council members questioned whether schools would have any admission changes in the event that the House concurs on the proposed standard.

“Why would we need to change it this year, because nobody should have been admitting anyone who doesn’t fit into the categories the way they are spread out (in the existing questionnaire),” said council chair Maureen O’Rourke. It was decided that the council could revisit the guidelines when it meets in September.

“I hope that as soon as the House acts, if they concur, we will have a preliminary guidance memo to send the schools,” Currier said He added that if the concurrence is given, the memo should state that the changes regarding admissions test standards are effective at the close of the House of Delegates meeting.

The proposed changes to Standard 501 and 503 are listed as Resolution 111D on the House of Delegates agenda. Mathew Kerbis, the council’s Young Lawyers Division liaison, told council members that earlier in the day, the YLD Assembly voted against changing the test requirement.

Follow along with our full coverage of the 2018 ABA Annual Meeting.

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