May 19, 2021
The new accreditation rules take effect Jan. 1, 2022, though law schools will have until 2024 to demonstrate they are in compliance.
California-approved law schools will have to set student learning goals and create diversity and inclusion plans under a sweeping set of revised rules adopted this month by the State Bar of California.
The new rules bring California’s law school accreditation process more in line with that of the American Bar Association, and echo a larger movement in higher education to place more emphasis on what and how students are learning. The revised accreditation rules also reflect the evolving way that law schools teach.
“When the accredited rules were created, they really contemplated fixed-facility schools distributed around the state,” said Natalie Leonard, principal program analyst in the state bar’s Office of Admissions. “That’s still true, but now there are other ways of teaching—most notably online teaching. It really was time to modernize the rules to take into account the way legal education is being delivered today.”
California is one of just a handful of states that maintain a law school accreditation system separate from the ABA. There are currently 15 California-accredited law schools. (Unlike graduates of ABA-accredited law schools who can take the bar anywhere, graduates of California-accredited law schools may only take California’s bar exam.)