ABA Accreditation & Proposed Skills requirement

Professor Barbara Schwartz recently posted this query on a clinic listserv and  would like feedback:

“I am co-chair of the curriculum committee this year, and we are in the process of finalizing a new mandatory skills requirement to comply with ABA accreditation standards.  I have a question that folks on this list might be able to answer.

 As part of the committee’s work, we surveyed all our faculty for their opinion on whether courses they were currently teaching would comply with the proposed rule (equivalent 1-hour credit requirement for instruction time (14 hours); experiential component;  assessment).  Two responses have created a question—our judicial externship program and a supreme court seminar in which students simulate being a clerk/justice and draft an opinion on a case actually pending in SCOTUS.  The externship supervisor believes that her program qualifies either because the students “draft” written work for the court which is assessed by her (we have included legal drafting as included within the list of skills) or because the students are learning the skill of being a judicial clerk.  Similarly, the instructor in the seminar believes that the students are “drafting” opinions.

 I for one don’t believe that opinions or memoranda to a judge qualify as “drafting”, but we currently do not have a definition that distinguishes between legal drafting and other legal writing like briefs, law review articles and seminar papers.  Anyone have such a definition?

 Anyone have experience with these issues…in your own skills training policies, how have your schools handled judicial externship programs?

 I would be glad to see any written policies regarding mandatory skills training that you would be willing to share.


 Barbara A. Schwartz

Clinical Law Professor

University of Iowa College of Law

Iowa City, Iowa 52245



FAX: 319.353.5445

One Response

  1. Great questions, Barbara, and ones that will need to be answered, for ABA and bar exam eligibility for California, and probably other jurisdictions that adopt similar requirements, down the road.

    My own school does not currently include our Supreme Court Decisionmaking course, or any of our externships in the list of courses that satisfies the current profession skills requirement. I’m guessing that both legal research and legal writing courses will be matters of discussion for this requirement, as my sense is that the move towards requiring professional skills is aimed in part at expanding the types of skills our students develop. And yet we all know how important the more “traditional” legal research and writing skills are.

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