ABA Decision Not to Accredit Foreign Law Schools Means Canadian Law Schools and Students are Winners. . . For Now
Last week the ABA`s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar decided not to get into the business of accrediting foreign law schools. The vote was unanimous. However, sounding somewhat like the Federation of Law Societies of Canada in its report on accrediting the Common Law Degree, the Governing Council of the section acknowledged that it needs to establish sandards and procedures for licensing foreign lawyers who want to practice law in the United States.
ABA accreditation is the gold standard for legal education in the United States. Students who graduate from accredited law schools can automatically sit for the bar exams in most states. Certain law schools including Peking University School of Transnational Law were actively seeking ABA accreditation. Peking applied for accreditation in 2008.
Canada comes out the big winner in this decision for several law schools.
First, Canadian law schools maintain an advantage over other foreign law schools because some state bars (New York, California) allow our grads to take their bar exams.
Second, a decision to accredit foreign law schools would have placed immense pressure on some Canadian law schools to seek accreditation. Brian Tamanaha in his Failing Law Schools claims accreditation accounts for $10k more in student tution charged. Canadian law students already labouring under serious debt should cheer the ABA`s decision. Had it gone the other way, it could have meant the first $30k a year Canadian law school.
Third, the decision means that we will see more foreign law schools seeking partnerships with Canadian law schools because of point number 1.
The decision avoids the obvious: legal practice has become internationalized and so too is legal education. In the academy we are now teaching students who will become global lawyers. This presents new challenges and opportunities for us in Canada.