We write as the Executive Committee of the Association of American Law Schools to express our opposition to the proposed revision to ABA Standard 403(a). The proposal would eliminate any restriction on using part-time faculty to teach after the first year of law school. In fact, as written, the new version of Standard 403(a) would permit more than two-thirds of all law school instruction to be provided by part-time faculty.
Full-time faculty are essential to providing quality professional legal education. Part-time law teachers enrich the curriculum, to be sure. Nonetheless, they cannot substitute for the focus of full-time faulty on teaching, availability to students, curriculum design and assessment, scholarship, and sustained engagement for educating professionals for the multiple roles they will play as lawyers and leaders.
A key distinction between ABA accredited and unaccredited law schools has been the role of full-time faculty. ABA accreditation has carried with it an imprimatur of quality that state supreme courts rely on. If the proposed change is enacted, this difference will erode, accompanied by a corresponding diminution in the significance of accreditation, and of quality in legal education.
We, of course, share the desire to facilitate innovations in legal education, especially those that will help law schools reduce their costs, but we respectfully suggest that not everything that is less expensive should be considered an “innovation.” Some changes are cheaper because they produce lower quality.