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August 10, 2013

Tenure, job security, and ABA accreditation reforms

by Dan Rodriguez

Big news from San Francisco, as the ABA Section of Legal Education Council refers for comment two alternative proposals for reforming the standards regarding job security for law faculty members.

In essence, the first proposal would eliminate the requirement that there the educational program include a tenured full-time faculty.  The second, and considerably more far-reaching, proposal would eliminate formal job security altogether, requiring only that the system in place at the law school be sufficient to attract and retain a qualified faculty.

Adoption of the first alternative would represent a significant, albeit not transformative, change to the ABA’s mandated structure of faculty employment.  To be sure, law schools would be free to have a system of tenure for some or all faculty; this would just not be required as a condition of accreditation.

Adoption of the second alternative would be rather far-reaching.  Law schools would free to conduct their academic program with a faculty of minimal job security.  While other parts of the accreditation standards speak about the ratio of adjunct-supplied instruction and instruction by full-time faculty, adoption of this second alternative would be a critical step in the direction away from the model of a law school as community of full-time, institutionally engaged legal educators.

The comment period can be expected to generate considerable commentary on these two proposals.

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