ABA Proposal Threatens Diversity In Legal Education

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The ABA has put out a story on the “ABA Newsroom” section of its web site titled “ABA Legal Education Section Publishes Proposed Interpretation of Bar Passage Standard for Approval of Law Schools.” In the 5th paragraph, Council of Legal Ed Chair Bill Rakes states:

… But the bar examination is not a uniform national testing experience, and there is wide variation among the states in how they apply test scores. Additionally, schools define their missions differently, with some, for example, seeking to reach out to communities that are underrepresented in the profession, or underserved by the bar, to prepare students to fill those needs, while other schools may focus on research, practical skills or other missions. An interpretation that provides meaningful measurement of how well all schools prepare their graduates for professional practice must reflect those realities.

Contrary to the implication in this statement that the proposed standard takes a school’s mission into account, and will be receptive to arguments about diversity, the proposal issued by the Council rejected the suggestion that they take a school’s mission into account in determining compliance. Instead, they inserted language about consideration of “student populations served” in a section of the proposal that only applies to schools that are in compliance.

This story is receiving some play in other media outlets. It may mislead individuals and groups concerned about diversity into a false sense of security about the impact of the proposal. As the Patton Study showed, the proposal will put almost all of the diversity-friendly schools out-of-compliance and worsen the state of minority enrollment.

The Council’s press release may mislead the civil rights community into thinking that this proposal will take mission and diversity into account in determining compliance with this interpretation. Please send a letter to the ABA before July 16 in opposition to the new interpretation. Contact information follows:

Dan Freehling
Deputy Consultant American Bar Association
321 N. Clark Street, 21st Floor
Chicago, IL 60610
Email: FreehliD@staff.abanet.org
Phone: (312) 988-6738
Fax: (312) 988-5681

–Vernellia Randall

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