Clinical Legal Education Association

CLEA Call to Action on the new ABA Bar Standard 316

26 Jan 2017 3:28 PM | Laura McNally-Levine (Administrator)

The CLEA Board would like to ask for your help on a critical ABA advocacy issue. This fall, the ABA Council on Legal Education passed a dramatic revision to Standard 316, requiring every accredited law school to demonstrate that 75% of each graduating class that sat for the bar passed within two years of graduation. The Council passed the new standard, however, with no evaluation of the impact of this change, including the unintended consequences on schools in states with low bar pass rates, student admissions decisions, law school curricular design. In fact, the Council passed the proposed Standard 316 hastily, after less than an hour’s discussion, with virtually no consideration of the mounting opposition to the standard.

You can help CLEA join the growing concerted effort to make sure that the House of Delegates does not simply rubberstamp Resolution 110B. Current examples of this effort include the attached letter from a group of prominent law school deans and a letter from the State Bar President of Michigan urging the House to send the resolution back for further investigation.

The new Standard 316 is scheduled to be voted on by the ABA House of Delegates on February 6th at the ABA Miami Midyear Meeting as Resolution 110B. We ask that you contact your state representatives who serve on the House of Delegates and request that they send the proposed standard back to the Council for further consideration and additional study.

To facilitate your communication with your state ABA Delegates, we are providing you with (1) background information on the revised Standard 316 in Resolution 110B and (2) a sample email for you to use to contact your representatives.

Background on the revised Standard 316

Under the new Standard 316, law schools would have to demonstrate that 75% of each graduating class who sat for the bar passed it within two years of graduation.

In a comment submitted in July 2016, CLEA opposed this new standard arguing that the proposed change may have unintended and possibly quite damaging consequences on law school curricular design and the diversity of the legal profession. CLEA urged that the Council defer action on the standard to (1) conduct an evidence-based inquiry into the immediate impact of proposed Standard 316 on schools in states with low bar pass rates and on the diversity of law schools; and (2) consider more systemically whether the bar examination, as the exclusive means of assessing readiness to practice law, is too limited in the proficiencies it assesses for entry into the legal profession.

CLEA was not alone in its opposition. More than a dozen comments were submitted in opposition, including comments from a group of twenty concerned law schools, SALT, the Historically Black Law Schools and Colleges Deans, and The Congressional Black Caucus. During the public hearing on the new standard, the only testimony presented was in opposition to the new standard. A complete list of comments submitted in opposition can be found here: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/notice_and_comment/notice_comment_archive.html. The full hearing transcript of public testimony about the revised Standard 316 can be found here:

http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_education_and_admissions_to_the_bar/council_reports_and_resolutions/comments/20160806_hearing_transcript.authcheckdam.pdf.

After the Council passed its resolution, the California bar results were released. The overall pass rate for first-time takers from ABA accredited law schools was 62%. Only five of the 21 ABA accredited law schools in California had a pass rate above 75%.

For your reference here are: (1) the revised Standard 316, (2) CLEA’s full comment opposing passage of the new standard, and (3) letters of opposition filed most recently by a collective of law school deans and the Michigan Bar Association President. The comments and public testimony present a range of arguments for why the ABA Council on Legal Education should not have passed the new Standard 316.

Proposed Email

Below is a draft email that you can use to present CLEA’s position:

Dear ABA Delegate:

I write to ask you to reject Resolution 110B, a revision of Standard 316 that dramatically changes the bar passage standard required for law school accreditation. I ask that you send Resolution 110B back to the Council on Legal Education for further study and consideration.

Standard 316 is dense, complex, and inadequate. It needs to be revised. But in passing this new Standard 316, the Council has not adequately studied the impact of this change, including the unintended consequences on schools in states with low bar pass rates, student admissions decisions, law school curricular design, and the diversity of the legal profession. In fact, the Council passed the proposed Standard 316 hastily, after less than an hour’s discussion, with virtually no consideration of the dozens of written comments and public testimony that opposed its passage.

I urge that the delegates of INSERT YOUR STATE HERE unanimously reject Resolution 110B and send it back to Council so that a careful, reliable, and comprehensive study of its impact can be conducted.

Sincerely,

SIGN NAME HERE

How to find your state’s delegates

Most state representatives for the ABA House of Delegates can be found on your state bar website. You can also simply use a search engine and type in your state name and “ABA House of Delegates.” We have found many state delegations using this very basic method. If you are a member of the ABA, there is a delegate directory link on the main ABA website that is accessible to you.

We believe that if we mobilize CLEA members on issues that are critical to our mission, we can collectively make a difference. We would like you to contact your delegates by January 31st before the meeting begins on February 1. Thank you for taking the time to write to your delegates!

Benjie Louis and Beth Schwartz

CLEA Co-Presidents


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