California Revamps Accreditation Rules
California’s State Bar of Trustees has adopted a set of new accreditation rules that will emphasize diversity and focus on student learning outcomes.
The new rules, which will become effective January 1, 2022, establish four key purposes for accreditation of California law schools. They include consumer protection and transparency, student success, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and preparation for licensure and professionalism.
“This effort is the latest example in the State Bar’s many efforts to broaden access to quality legal education in our diverse state,” Donna Hershkowitz, interim executive director at The State Bar of California, says in a press release. “The new accreditation rules will ensure that law schools and the State Bar are focusing on what matters most to ensure positive student outcomes and ultimately support our efforts to protect the public.”
STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES
The new rules aim to improve and enhance student learning outcomes.
Beginning in 2022, California law schools will need to “state the knowledge, skills, and values that each program of the law school seeks to provide to, or develop, in graduates of that program.”
Additionally, law schools will be required to specifically highlight the “knowledge, skills, and values that each course in each program of the law school’s curriculum seeks to provide to, or develop in, graduates of that program.”
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION
One of the major changes adopted is around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The new rules focus on three key requirements for California law schools including: establishing an antidiscrimination policy; creating an inclusive and diverse law school environment; and establishing recruitment and retention initiatives that actively improve diversity and inclusion outcomes.
“To ensure an environment of continuous evaluation and improvement, law schools must track the implementation of their policies and change them as appropriate when suggested by their results,” the agenda memo reads.
In an interview with Law.com, Natalie Leonard, principal program analyst in the state bar’s Office of Admissions, says that the new requirements are meant to help actively increase access and diversity to the law industry.
“Our schools have always been about increasing access and diversity in the profession, but this is the first time there has been a specific requirement in that area—that schools have a diversity plan that’s created, evaluated and acted upon,” Leonard tells Law.com.