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The ABA has introduced new standards and altered some old ones. Here's how it might affect you.

By Ben Feuer

With law schools more embattled with each passing year, the ABA met on Monday to discuss possible changes to the way schools are accredited.

Students are now required to take a minimum of six hours in a legal clinic or other “experiential” environment.   50 hours of pro bono service are encouraged.  Students may take up to 15 credit hours of distance courses, up from 12. Students won’t be limited to 20 hours of outside work per week anymore.
To protect accreditation, law schools will have to shift toward assessments that focus on student outcomes—including bar-exam results and employment—rather than simply evaluating incoming students.

All of these changes are designed to help with the underlying issue of ballooning debt at top law schools.  Law students graduate with more debt than anyone, except med school students.  One long-sought after change that has not been implemented this go round is the option for law students to get credit for paid internships.  The board concluded it was too large of a conflict of interest.

While all of these developments are good news for students trying to finance a legal education, at the end of the day they are just a drop in the bucket.  While it would be a gross overstatement to call any field with 85% employment numbers struggling, the downturn since the credit crisis has certainly encouraged a shift to business, science and medicine, one which does not seem likely to reverse anytime soon.



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