In a move that many law students and recent graduates will greet with a sigh of relief, the ABA has recently decided to continue withholding approval of accreditation to foreign law schools. In an August 3, 2012 vote, the ABA’s Council of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar voted to refuse accreditation for the foreign law schools. This vote came on the heels of a debate that has lasted four years about whether the ABA should allow foreign law schools that follow the American educational model to obtain accreditation. About four years ago, the Peking University School of Transnational Law was the first to seek such approval when it signaled its intentions to obtain such ABA accreditation.
After Peking University indicated its intentions, the ABA formed a committee to study the issue, and two years ago it recommended seriously considering extending accreditation to foreign law schools. The panel felt that such accreditation would help judges and bar associations decide whether to allow foreign-trained attorneys to practice within their jurisdictions.
However, another ABA committee reached a different conclusion after it heard opposition from many sources, including, especially, law students who were afraid of increased competition for the few law jobs that are still available in this recession-challenged hiring landscape. In the end, the committee concluded that allowing foreign accreditation would be too costly and impossible to manage.
The committee took into account the opinions of bar associations, judges and law school administrators. The committee also received a letter from the Peking University in which it urged the committee to grant the foreign accreditation. The committee conceded that the outpouring of opposition to the proposed plan had a big impact on their final decision.