Via Taxprof, I learn that William Rakes, the new chairperson of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, has charged an 11-person task force to recommend changes to the ABA accreditation process. Rakes letter to the members of the task force, bolded in appropriate places, follows:
You are asked to consider the relevant concepts and broad issues of accreditation. Your focus should be on what is a sound program of legal education and measure against that. I think the goal of accreditation should be to provide for a system based on standards which provide for the least possible amount of intrusion on the schools, recognize that one size does not fit all, and provide for maximum flexibility on the part of the schools. I would not want the Task Force to get bogged down in the details of the Standards or in drafting. Policy analysis and recommendations are what is desired.
I ask that you a) review the standards for accreditation used by other accrediting groups, b) determine what the Department of Education requires of accrediting bodies [I pointed out recently that the ABA has implicitly admitted that it has been violating DOE standards, see link below], and c) formulate an agenda which will address those issues that raise concerns as to whether it is appropriate and necessary for our accreditation standards to prescribe conduct on the part of law schools which tend to limit innovation and impose requirements which are not basic to the goals of accreditation. It has been suggested that the standards should focus more on measurement and assessment of outputs and less on inputs.
In other words, you are asked to take a fresh look at accreditation from a policy perspective. Please provide status reports of your progress as you see fit and submit your report in time for the Council to consider it at its June 2007 meeting.
I hope this is a serious effort by the ABA to fixed its incredibly flawed accreditation process, which has been captured by various activist groups in the legal academy who have sought to use the accreditation process to require law schools to adopt their agenda (tenuring clinical and legal writing faculty, admitting more minority students and hiring more minority faculty, keeping teaching loads low, etc.), regardless of the costs and benefits to the law school consumer. The other possibility is that this is a token effort aimed at persuading the Department of Education to recertify the ABA as an accrediting body in December, after which nothing will change.