March 22, 2011
Masters: Legal Education - In Praise of Regulation?
Posted by David Zaring

I find it odd that the ABA plays such a critical role in regulating law schools, but let's face it, without bar passage requirements mostly premised on law school attendance, legal academia would be a very different, and less cozy place.

I'm usually for less cozy and more competitive.  But that would suggest that I'd be against rules in the following three areas of accreditation:

c.  Relaxing the current standard that requires that schools must require every applicant to have a score on a valid and reliable entrance examination (practically speaking, the LSAT);

e.  Reconsidering current standards that require schools to have class attendance policies, limit students from taking a internship at which they would be paid, and substantially limit credit hours that can be earned by students through distance education courses;

f.  Reconsidering the (relatively new) policy concerning minimum or threshold bar passage rates and addressing the perception that the thresholds established by the policy are too low.

But I'm not.  I'm for ABA regulation in each of these places.  I think the LSAT preserves the ideal of meritocratic entrance.  It is good that if schools want to diversify their classes on whatever metric, admit rich legacies, or simply create an exclusive, Ivy League, or Old-Siwash-7-Year-Man patina, they have to deal with the fact that applicants who don't offer those features take the same test.  Without the LSAT, some schools might look for those legal versions of the PSDs.  But you worry that other, highly ranked schools would not.

I also think that class attendance isn't a terrible thing to require, that sneaking a bunch of credit hours into distance education would hurt the ability of students to get to know each other, and that perhaps there ought to be some threshold bar passage rates as a matter of consumer protection (the applicants being the consumers).

The one anti-regulatory view I have is that it might be the case that law schools should feel free to really mess around with that third year.  And if that means internships (even paid ones), clinics, and a return to an apprentice style education, than so be it.

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