Wednesday, April 8, 2009

200 198/199? Law Schools Redux

Two weeks ago I wrote about how I was surprised at the latest Annual Report of the ABA Consultant on Legal Education (you can only buy it at that link - they do NOT have it on-line!) and their trumpeting of “Marking a Milestone: 200 Accredited Law Schools”. My own count that I do for a on-going law librarian survey only had 198 law schools: the ABA counts the JAG school and I didn’t, but the bigger difference is that for the first time the ABA counted Widener as two law schools, not just one school with two campuses. The previous annual report counted Widener as one law school, as, presumedly, it had been counted since its second campus was approved by the ABA back in 1988. (Thomas Cooley is still counted as one law school with three campuses.)

I swapped e-mail with the relevant people - the Dean at Widener and the ABA Consultant himself. Since neither explicitly said I could - or could not - quote their responses (even though I asked them both about that), I’ll just summarize what they said.

The Dean at Widener said it was one law school with two campuses, and that she was the Dean of both. The Consultant said that because the two had different curricula, different clinical opportunities, and, according to him - though the Dean didn’t confirm this - different faculty tenure processes, it was really two schools.

I specifically asked why this change was made this year, and asked both the consultant and the Dean whether some radical change was made that warranted counting Widener as two law schools for the first time, and neither indicated that some recent change in Widener’s administration, or in anything, had occurred. The consultant said that listing Widener as one school with two branches was not acceptable to the administration, but he didn’t indicate when I asked whether he was referring to the administration of the law school(s) or of Widener University.

As I mentioned in the e-mail to the consultant, of course the ABA gets to have the final word in this, and he said a decision had to be made and that for their purposes they decided to list Widener as two schools. To me it seems that the only purpose for making the change now at this point in the history of the ABA Legal Education Section was so that they could create this Milestone and Mark it now instead of in another year or two when the next round of new law schools are provisionally accredited.

The question of whether the JAG school should be counted as one of the 200 law schools when its not a J.D. - granting institution is something I’ll leave for another day. Would it take a FOIA request to get their self-study report?

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