The American Bar Association has one year to address issues resulting from a Congressional look, promulgated by Republicans, into the regulation and success rates of law schools.
In recent months, a smattering of congressional democrats, led by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) hav begun to notice the groundswell of attention aimed at increasing the transparency of law schools around the country. But not until Republicans took notice recently did things start happening.
In today's online version of the National Law Journal, Karen Sloan reports that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter on July 11 to ABA President Stephen Zack, asking for written responses to 31 questions about how the organization is regulating law schools.
Grassley cited a U.S. Department of Education hearing in June, during which the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, a committee reviewing accreditation agencies, found that the ABA had not complied with 17 rules. Among those violations, the panel said, was failure to set forth job placement requirements for law schools; to set a standard policy for recording student complaints; to fully explain accreditation decisions; and to track student loan default rates.
"My concern is that the ABA, which has the power to accredit law schools, was barely granted renewal recognition by the U.S. Department of Education's accreditation experts," Grassley wrote. "Moreover, in the eyes of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, the ABA appears to be doing little to assess student-loan default rates in its law school accreditation process."
NashvillePost.com reported in June that the ABA had already taken some steps toward resolving some of the issues now in Congressional sights.
The National Law Journal reported on June 13 that the American Bar Association has taken its first formal step toward improving the accuracy and transparency of law school employment data. A change approved on June 11, to its annual law school questionnaire, will require schools to report more detailed employment and salary information.
This move is all part of the larger law school transparency issue discussed in a NashvillePost.com article, here.
The ABA's Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar approved the questionnaire changes. The ABA will publish that information in the ABA/LSAC Official Guide, which is available to the public and potential law students.
The changes will be in place by February, when the schools next report the data to the ABA, according to the Law Journal. The more detailed statistics covering the class 2010 will be available by June 2012.
Law School Transparency, a Tennessee-based online nonprofit organization founded last year to advocate for delivering better employment information to prospective students, called the change an "enormous step."