ABA Standards – Tour 1

This is the first of my email tours of the ABA and its accreditation process. One of the most important bodies in law school accreditation is the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. The United States Department of Education recognizes the Section (along with its Accreditation Committee) as the national accrediting agency for law schools. ABA-accredited law schools meet the legal education requirements of all state bars; only four states do not require graduation from an ABA-accredited law school for bar admission. This and more detailed background information is provided on the Section’s website at: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education.html

The governing body of the Section is its Council, which has 25 members. Most council members are law faculty, judges, and practitioners; also included are a student member and a few public members (these people deserve medals!) Also attending Council meetings are two Section delegates to the ABA House of Delegates and the liaison to the Board of Governors. The current members are listed at: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/about_us/leadership.html

The Council is led by a chair that rotates annually among council members. The rotation moves from law faculty to practitioner to judge. For example, two years ago the chair was Randy Hertz, a Clinical Professor from NYU (now Vice Dean); last year the chair was Jerry Hafter, a practitioner from Mississippi; currently the chair is Christine Durham, Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court.

The council members are volunteers. The Council’s work is assisted by a full-time staff, led by the Consultant on Legal Education. The Consultant and his staff administer the accreditation process, which includes recruiting and training site evaluators. The current Consultant is Bucky Askew, who has been in the position since 2006. See: http://apps.americanbar.org/legaled/section/consultant/consultant.html

The Council meets four times each year, typically in February, May, August, and December. This infrequent meeting schedule keeps anything from happening too quickly. Each meeting consists of two parts. First, the Council meets in executive session to hear accreditation reports on various law schools and to decide accreditation issues. Then, the Council meets in open session. During these open sessions, the Council conducts business, discusses the work of committees, considers new initiatives, and hears reports from affiliated organizations.

The next tour will cover the ABA committees. See you then!


Suzanne E. Rowe
University of Oregon
School of Law