The ABA’s role in policing complaints and overseeing “major” changes

The ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is the organization designated by the United States Department of Education to accredit institutions granting the J.D. What that means, among other things, is that in order for the students at a law school to receive federally backed financial aid, the ABA must provisionally or fully approve that school.

The Rules governing the approval of law schools are available online and address matters of standards and procedure.

As students and alumni of the Charleston School of Law learn more about the impending “management agreement” and the future sale it may portend, several of the ABA’s standards and rules of procedure may be of interest:

Standard 204 establishes that stand-alone law schools must maintain an academic structure similar to those of law schools affiliated with universities. Standard 205 and Interpretation 205-1 bear quotation:

(a) A governing board may establish general policies that are applicable to a law school if they are consistent with the Standards.
(b) The dean and faculty shall formulate and administer the educational program of the law school, including curriculum; methods of instruction; admissions; and academic standards for retention, advancement, and graduation of students; and shall recommend the selection, retention, promotion, and tenure (or granting of security of position) of the faculty.
Interpretation 205-1
An action of a university committee may violate the Standards if it deprives the dean and faculty of a law school of their appropriate roles for recommending faculty promotion and tenure or security of position.

Standard 306 addresses the provision of “distance” education in detail with specific requirements for the manner of delivery and the amount of time devoted to distance ed. Standard 512 is of vital interest to current students, in that it provides for a complaint procedure where allegations of failure to maintain these standards is alleged:

Standard 512. STUDENT COMPLAINTS IMPLICATING COMPLIANCE
WITH THE STANDARDS
(a) A law school shall establish, publish, and comply with policies with respect to addressing student complaints.
(b) A law school shall maintain a record of student complaints submitted during the most recent accreditation period. The record shall include the resolution of the complaints.
(c) A “complaint” is a communication in writing that seeks to bring to the attention of the law school a significant problem that directly implicates the school’s program of legal education and its compliance with the Standards.

These standards are applicable to ALL law schools seeking to achieve or maintain approval by the ABA.

Standard 105 sets forth the conditions under which “major” changes to an approved institution may take place. In addition to these standards, the ABA has set forth rules of procedure that govern, among other things, major changes to the management, curriculum, or ownership of an approved law school. Rules 20 and 21 address a wide variety of “major” changes; sale of a law school clearly would fall within the definition of major change.

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