Law schools

ABA considers accrediting overseas law schools

An American Bar Association committee has recommended that the ABA consider accrediting law schools outside the United States, according to a story in Am Law Daily sibling publication The National Law Journal.

The committee--composed of law professors, attorneys, judges, and law school deans--distributed its report to state supreme court justices, ABA leaders, and top law school administrators last week, the NLJ reports.

In the report, the panel said that--with state supreme courts and bar associations are under mounting pressure to make decisions about whether to admit foreign lawyers--expanding the ABA's accreditation would "provide additional guidance for state supreme courts when lawyers trained outside the U.S. seek to be allowed to sit for a U.S. bar examination," the NLJ reports.

Broadening the ABA's accreditation overseas would be in line with the globalization of the legal profession, the committee said. The panel cited figures from the National Conference of Bar Examiners that show between 4,000 and 5,000 foreign-trained lawyers sit for the bar each year in the U.S. If the ABA continues to limit its accreditation to the U.S., the committee wrote, states will be inconsistent in how they admit foreign-trained lawyers, according to the NLJ.

One possible downside to accrediting international school, according to the committee: doing so could expand practice opportunities for lawyers trained overseas, while providing no reciprocal benefit for U.S. law school graduates. There could also be political fallout if the ABA failed to accredit a government-sponsored law school, reports the NLJ. The committee said that foreign law schools, not the ABA, should pay for the cost of overseas accreditation.

The committee was appointed in June; the ABA's Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will consider its recommendations in December.

(Published by AM Law Daily - August 17, 2010)

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