The Evolution of ABA Standards for Clinical Faculty
52 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2008
The value of clinical legal education courses and the faculty teaching those courses has long been contested. A focal point for this opposition has been resistance to the American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation standard that requires law schools to establish long-term employment relationships with clinical faculty and provide them with a meaningful voice in law school governance. By integrating clinical faculty into law schools, the ABA aims to advance the value of clinical legal education and the professional skills and values it promotes. In the decades since the ABA created the first clinical faculty standard, clinical legal education in the United States has developed as pedagogy and the number of clinical faculty has greatly increased. Despite these trends, a recent decision by the ABA Accreditation Committee approving short-term contracts and the denial of meaningful participation in faculty governance for clinical faculty demonstrates that the debate over the appropriate status continues. In this debate, there is often little or no mention of the history of the accreditation standard in question, perhaps because no historical account of its evolution exists. In this article, the authors fill that gap in the literature by tracing the evolution of the ABA standard concerning clinical faculty status.
The article begins with a discussion of the role of the ABA in legal education and a brief history of the development of clinical legal education. It then discusses the events leading up to the initial adoption in 1984 of a standard addressing clinical faculty and to the strengthening of the standard in 1996. The authors conclude by addressing changes to the standard in 2005 and how those changes have revived the debate over the status of clinical faculty. By surfacing the historical debates and the evolution of the standard for clinical faculty, the article provides the basis for reasoned, informed decisions by the ABA and the legal academy concerning the value of clinical legal education and the role of clinical faculty in law schools.
Keywords: American Bar Association (ABA), legal education, law schools, ABA Standards, clinical legal education, academic freedom, tenure
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