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1981 Newsl. 1 (1981)

handle is hein.aals/aalsnews1981 and id is 1 raw text is: 

President's Message

  In my last newsletter I stressed the importance of the
AALS and law schools taking seriously some of the
conditions that give rise to proposals concerning law
school programs of instruction. In that message, and also
in my presidential address in San Antonio, I stressed that
the Association of American Law Schools has contribu-
tions to make that are distinctive from the ABA or any
other association or group. Precisely because it does not
perform a direct licensing function tied to requirements for
admission to the bar, the Association can freely and easily
convene workshops, conferences and other meetings,
which will assist member schools in improving perfor-
mance of existing activities, and consider whether to take
on new and additional programs. Workshops have recently
been convened or are planned in such traditional subjects
as civil procedure, taxation and contracts. Conferences
may focus on the purposes of graduate legal education or
of non-degree programs for experienced lawyers. These
activities become means by which law schools support one
another. Professors and administrators who have devel-
oped new ideas and strong programs are given the oppor-
tunity to educate and assist their peers in other schools.
  The Association makes another contribution to legal
education, a most important one, through its insistence on
standards of quality as a condition of membership. These
standards are enforced by periodic inspections now carried
on simultaneously with the ABA, and by independent
reviews by the Association's Accreditation and Executive
Committees. This activity has been going on for so long
and is carried on so regularly that we may tend to overlook
it. To do so would be a serious mistake.
  Recently, the Association had dealings with COPA
(Council on Postsecondary Accreditation) which suggest
issues more important than may appear on the surface.
COPA is a private organization that oversees accreditation
in higher education. In reviewing the accreditation func-
tion of AALS, a committee of COPA raised a number of
issues. Did the AALS accreditation procedure afford each
aggrieved school a sufficient right of appeal? Did it provide
for lay representation at some point in the process? In light


of the accreditation activities of the ABA Section on Legal
Education, should AALS also be recognized as an accred-
iting agency, i.e. should COPA recognize two accrediting
agencies in the same field, when one might be thought to be
more efficient administratively?
  The questions of procedures and representation are not
major. In fact, the Association has recently changed its
processes so that rights of appeal by aggrieved schools are
wholly protected. Moreover, some lay representation
might be introduced into the accrediting process in order
to guard against unduly narrow perspectives of the experts.
However, the suggestion that there be only one accrediting
body in the law school field raises issues of larger dimen-
sion. Over many decades, the ABA and the AALS have
both accredited law schools, each for its own purposes. A
look at the record suggests that their standards are not far
apart, probably because each organization has had some
impact on the other. The AALS appears to have estab-
lished somewhat higher standards of scholarship than has
the ABA, though without neglecting the importance of
professional education. There would be a substantial loss
if the Association were suddenly to discontinue its accredi-
tation function. It seems to me quite unlikely that it would
agree to do so.
  It had been suggested that the AALS is a membership
organization rather than an accrediting organization. If one
viewed accreditation as limited to recognition for govern-
mental purposes - i.e., licensing - then the point might
seem well taken. But the AALS has from the outset viewed
membership as more than a private convenience for its
members; it has represented to the public that member-
ship in the Association is an assurance of quality. This is a
very important mode of accreditation, one that we should
not lightly abandon.

                          Albert M. Sacks


Pinting and Distribution Courtesy of Foundation Pess, Inc.


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