The Players

Appendix of the parties relevant to solving legal education's problems

Law Schools

A. Parent Universities. The vast majority of law schools in the United States exist within a university structure. These schools answer to a chain of command beyond the walls of the law school. Frequently, the university sets law school tuition & fees, tenure policies, and other policies. Parent universities also often provide to law schools resources, such as library subscriptions, communications and alumni development staff, and legal counsel, as well as facilities such as gyms, parking, and libraries.

The give and take between law schools and their parent universities is usually a matter of great contention and sometimes involves state legislatures. In the past, many parent universities subsidized university activity with law school revenue—law schools have been called "cash cows." Today, many parent universities subsidize law schools facing budgetary shortfalls. Measuring the exact give and take is difficult due to incredibly complex university budgets and accounting methodologies, but one law school dean and ABA official estimated that the vast majority of law schools today are running deficits.

B. Stand Alones. Usually private non-profit or for-profit entities, stand alone law schools operate independently. These schools have more flexibility in setting policy, managing tuition, and operations. But if a stand alone school faces a budget shortfall, it must come up with the revenue through lending, alumni generosity, selling assets, or dipping into endowment funds to balance the books.

Federal Government

A. Congress. With Congress not accomplishing much lately, it's been a bi-partisan group of individual members of the U.S. Senate showing the most interest in our broken legal education system through their oversight function. However, the Higher Education Act of 1965 is up for reauthorization and policy groups around the country are clamouring for legislative change for a multitude of reasons, from reducing the federal government's involvement in higher education, to increasing Pell grants and other need-based aid, to better accountability to the public.

B. Department of Education. The Department of Education does not accredit institutions or programs, but does recognize accrediting bodies—such as the ABA Section of Legal Education & Admissions to the Bar—that aim to set manage educational quality. When an institution or program is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting body, students at that institution or in the program may be able to access student loans under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Department of Education also promulgates regulations that affect Title IV fund eligibility, such as the "gainful employment" rule. The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity is a federal panel that evaluates accreditors and recommends whether they should have accreditation authority.

American Bar Association

A. "Big" ABA. The American Bar Association (ABA) is a trade organization for lawyers. It has many sections, centers, and divisions. Power is concentrated in the Office of the President, the House of Delegates, and the Board of Governors. The House of Delegates is like a legislature. They vote on items that become official policies for the ABA. The Board of Governors (38 members) has the authority to act and speak for the ABA, consistent with previous action of the House of Delegates, when the House is not in session. It oversees the general operation of the ABA and develops specific plans of action. The Board includes the ABA's president, a person elected to a one-year term two years in advance. An executive director oversees the ABA's permanent staff. The "Big" ABA does not have accrediting authority, thus its resolutions are not binding on law schools.

B. Section of Legal Education & Admissions to the Bar. One of the ABA's sections. It's the section that has accreditation authority from the Department of Education, not the ABA itself. The relationship used to be closer, but a Department of Justice investigation in the 1990s led to separation.

Like the ABA, the Section of Legal Education has a political arm and a staff arm. The staff arm is small and is usually referred to as the "professional staff." The Council of the Section of Legal Education is the section's governing arm. It has law school accreditation authority, along with its accreditation committee. The Council has a chair, on a one-year term (elected two years in advance), and a large body of individuals serving three-year terms.

The Council has a number of committees, but only three accreditation-related ones. The accreditation committee, the standards review committee (SRC), and the data policy and collection committee (DPCC, formerly the questionnaire committee). The first two are relatively diverse, i.e. not all law school professors and law school administrators. The DPCC is comprised of all law professors and administrators.

The DPCC deals with collecting data from schools for accreditation purposes. They act under the authority of the Council, but the Council approves their policies. The SRC works on the ABA accreditation standards, which must be approved by the Council. Once the standards go through notice and comment and the Council approves proposals, the ABA House of Delegates votes. The House's approval is not the final say; if it does not approve a proposed standard, the Council may reconsider it and finalize approval despite the House's action.

State Bar Authorities

State Bar authorities regulate the admission of attorneys to practice in the state. Every state and territory, as well as Washington D.C., has its own rules that govern admission. Each jurisdiction, however, requires an ethics examination and moral character evaluation. Almost every state requires a bar examination. The vast majority of states require a degree from a law school accredited by the ABA. Sometimes states delegate authority to regulate admissions to the bar to a non-governmental associations, either through statute or from the state's highest court. By and large, State Bar authorities leave to the ABA the authority to oversee law schools.

National Conference of Bar Examiners

The NCBE is a non-profit organization that develops the bar exam for most U.S. jurisdictions. Its tests include the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). It is currently attempting to increase the reach of the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) so that law school graduates do not need to take multiple bar exams if they wish to be licensed in multiple states. The NCBE also develops and administers the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).

Law School Transparency

LST is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in Georgia. We were founded in 2009 (in Tennessee) by Kyle McEntee and Patrick Lynch. Our mission is to make entry to the legal profession more transparent, affordable, and fair. We develop legal education policy ideas, shape the national debate of these ideas, and challenge law schools, state bar associations, and the American Bar Association to change business as usual.

LST is one of the nation's most trusted sources for information and analysis on legal education issues. From data and research tools to an expert staff and widely-read publications, we provide resources for journalists, researchers, policymakers, and students. Our research, policy papers, reports, and staff are routinely cited by traditional and legal news organizations, popular blogs, and academic scholarship.

Our work can be loosely broken into two categories: consumer advocacy and consumer information. You can read more about LST's previous impact, resources, and vision here.