In an effort to make law school a more practical experience for law students in order to better prepare them for the job market, the American Bar Association (ABA) recently amended their accreditation standards, eliminating the cap on student work hours.
Until this change, there was a hard bar on the amount of hours students could work, limiting students to no more than twenty hours per week. The change, which is said to have no reason preventing it from becoming effective immediately, wipes out the bar altogether. However, the deletion was interpreted to allow schools to adopt their own limitations on student employment hours – see what your school allows.
In addition to employment hours, schools are also required to increase their experiential learning requirements (i.e. clinics, externships, or simulations) from one credit hour to six. This change will allow students fewer hours in the classroom and more time putting what they learn to practice.
In order to keep their accreditation, schools will be more closely reviewed on their output, meaning bar exam results and employment rates, instead of their input like faculty-to-student ratios and the number of books in the library. In light of the recession and with abundant online information and online course availability, those old factors shouldn’t have been considered much anyway.
Speaking of online classes, the ABA also increased the amount of online credits permitted from 12 to 15 hours, and these can be taken all in one semester instead of only four credit hours per semester.
Gearing the law school education to a more practical approach rather than theory-based is long overdue. Students will be more prepared for the job market and have a better chance to compete when employers are requiring more experience from entry-level attorneys.
To read about other ABA accreditation changes, click here.
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