ABA Announces Major Reorganization
In a major reorganization decision, the ABA is dissolving its accreditation and standards review committees to streamline law school accreditation and save money.
Law.com reports that the accreditation committee is responsible for developing the rules governing law schools. The standard review, which is expected to be approved in Chicago on August 6th, will make the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar responsible for both the committees’ work.
“The council will be able to act on major changes proposed by law schools in one step, rather than two (an [accreditation committee] recommendation and then council review of that recommendation), shortening the response time on proposals that, in many cases, are more time-sensitive than the current process can accommodate,” council chair Maureen O’Rourke writes in a report to the ABA’s House of Delegates. “The restructuring will also allow the council to move more expeditiously in enforcing the standards when there are concerns that schools are not abiding by them.”
In recent years, the ABA has experienced financial strain in part due to the decline in student enrollment at law schools.
Over the past five years alone, the ABA’s budget has decreased from $116 million in 2014 to $96.1 million, according to the ABA Journal. The lack of funds has also led to staff cuts.
“We know we’re going to be doing a restructuring, and we know that some positions will be eliminated as a result,” executive director Jack Rives says in an interview with the ABA Journal. “What we’d like to do first is give those staff members who’ve given such great service to the association over many years the option to make their personal decision on this one-time, voluntary opportunity.”
The reorganization is expected to save the section “several hundred thousand dollars,” according to section manager Barry Currier.
The New Structure
According to Law.com, the council will continue to meet four times a year under the new structure. However, meetings will be one day longer to compensate for the added workload.
Additionally, as Law.com reports, the ABA will extend the accreditation review process for participating schools from seven years to 10 years.
“The council believes that these changes will shorten the decision-making timeline, eliminate redundancies, avoid the necessity for staff increases, reduce expenses, and, overall, improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the process,” O’Rourke writes.
Sources: Law.com, ABA Journal