Law professors not happy ABA is ‘micromanaging’

Legal academics are pushing back against an American Bar Association proposal that would specify what law students should learn and how they should be assessed, saying it would squelch the freedom professors have to take different approaches within their classrooms.

Among the proposed changes are a mandate that law schools adopt and publish specific learning goals for every class and ensure that required courses with more than one section each term (usually taught by more than one professor), are aligned. Those changes are meant to help “law schools better understand what they are expected to do in these areas,” the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar said in an August memo explaining the proposal.

But some of the nearly 20 law professors and deans who provided public comments—most objecting to one or more aspects of the proposal—said the ABA would be overstepping its role by determining what is taught and how.

“I am concerned that [aspects of the proposal] reflect a new philosophy at the ABA: that the ABA and law schools should micromanage law teachers,” wrote University of Arkansas at Little Rock law professor Joshua Silverstein in a comment to the ABA.

William Adams, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education, said on Thursday that several law schools have raised concerns that the learning outcomes and assessment standards as they stand now are “too general” and that the changes are meant to give schools more guidance.

But law deans from Columbia, UC Berkeley, Vanderbilt and Georgetown wrote in a joint letter that the proposal to require faculty to adopt the same core learning outcomes across multiple sections of the same course “constrains” faculty members and deprives students of professors’ “varying expertise and experiences.”

Some of the public comments were mixed, supporting parts of the proposal while opposing others.

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