As I note over at Leiter, the Council of the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar hit the brakes on the issue of accrediting overseas law schools. Back in July, the Report of Special Committee on Foreign Law Schools Seeking Approval under ABA Standards (known as the Kane Report) took the following position on such accreditation:
(1) The Council should authorize the Accreditation Project to go forward with considering the accreditation of law schools outside the United States borders that meet all of the prevailing Section Accreditation Standards and Rules of Procedure....
(2) The Council should request the Standards Review Committee in its ongoing comprehensive review to look at all the Standards to ensure that none of them unintentionally sets up barriers to this geographic expansion and to remove any such barriers that do not implicate the substantive standards ensuring a quality legal education.
(3) The Council should consider drafting a policy statement to clarify the matters highlighted in Part II that deal with the underlying assumptions in the current standards, such as that the curriculum is primarily focused on U.S. law, the instruction is primarily in English, and the faculty are primarily J.D. graduates of ABA approved law schools.
Responses to this recommendation were not particularly warm and cuddly - particularly from representatives of, and students in, American law schools. Comments are here. A quick glance at some of these comments suggests a good deal of anxiety over the market for American law grads. As you might expect, there are also comments targeted at the practical challenges of international accreditation. As a result of this evident discomfort, the Council just adopted the following slow-down resolution:
Consistent with the first recommendation of the Kane Committee report and in view of the comments received by the Council with respect to that report, I move that the Council continue with its consideration of the approval of foreign law schools and engage in our consideration appropriate public and private stakeholders, for example, the Conference of Chief Justices, state bar examiners, legal educators, representatives of the legal profession, and public officials. Until the Council has fully vetted the issue as to whether to expand the accreditation role of the Section to encompass law schools located outside of the U.S. and its territories, the section will not proceed with consideration of any application for provisional approval from a foreign law school.
The Council has quite literally kicked the can down the road.
For now, this is an issue of fairly limited consequence - the only foreign school apparently on the brink of seeking accreditation is the Peking University of Transnational Law, headed by former Michigan Law Dean Jeff Lehman. But it's also easy to imagine that, if and when the door is opened, we may see a decent number of these schools croppping up - especially in English speaking countries.