Statements

AASE Submits Comment to Proposed ABA Standard 405


Dear Chair McCormack:

On behalf of the Association of Academic Support Educators (“AASE”), we write in support of the proposed amendments to ABA Standard 405 with the inclusion of our suggested revisions that explicitly include “bar success” professors in the faculty categories listed in the proposed amendment.

Founded in 2013, AASE is a non-profit organization made up of academic and bar support professionals from every ABA law school in the United States and Canada. One of our missions is to raise awareness of issues affecting law school academic and bar support professionals to other constituencies and law school-related organizations, specifically as it relates to employment inequity. Faculty status, or lack thereof, remains a consistent issue impacting our membership, many of whom teach students at all levels of their institution’s curriculum, and bear the same duties and responsibilities as so-called “podium faculty” without the commensurate pay or ability to vote on law school issues.

Though we are educators who teach law students and graduates using skills rooted in legal doctrine, we are often hired as administrators, staff, or non-tenured faculty members instead of full-time tenured faculty. This places many of our constituents in the unenviable position of being responsible for the core missions and outcomes of the law school, such as ABA-mandated bar passage standards, without the power to make beneficial changes or suggestions to curricular and hiring matters. This second-tier status perpetuates already existing inequalities and deprives many AASE members of faculty status and security of employment. These administrative/staff designations are given despite the fact that academic and bar success professors fall squarely within the definition of faculty set forth in Standard 401 in Chapter 4 of the 2023-2024 Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law School (the “Standards”):

A law school shall have a faculty whose qualifications and experience enable the law school to operate in compliance with the Standards and carry out its program of legal education. The faculty shall possess a high degree of competence, as demonstrated by academic qualification, experience in teaching or practice, teaching effectiveness, and scholarship.

Our membership also regularly performs the “Responsibilities of Full-Time Faculty” outlined in Standard 404, whether done with or without formal recognition. These responsibilities include:

(1) Teaching, preparing for classes, being available for student consultation about those classes, assessing student performance in those classes, and remaining current in the subjects being taught;
(2) Participating in academic advising, creating an atmosphere in which students and faculty may voice opinions and exchange ideas, and assessing student learning at the law school;
(3) Engaging in scholarship , as defined by the law school;
(4) Service to the law school and university community, including participation in the governance of the law school, curriculum development, and other institutional responsibilities described in the Standards;
(5) Service to the profession, including working with judges and practicing lawyers to improve the profession; and
(6) Service to the public, including participation in pro bono activities.

Educators employed full-time by law schools, who meet the criteria set forth in Chapter 4 of the Standards, should be hired and classified (or, for those currently employed full-time, reclassified) as full-time faculty and treated the same as other full-time faculty with the same rights and responsibilities. Security of employment at an ABA accredited institution should not depend on the subjects a professor teaches or the jobs they are hired to perform at the school.

The proposed amendment to Standard 405, with the revisions suggested below, will provide meaningful job security for legal writing and academic and bar success professors. This will allow us to devote our full energy to the critically important work of teaching students to be critical thinkers and excellent communicators, as well as to reach their full potential—including graduating, passing the bar exam, and practicing law. It will also ensure that legal writing and academic and bar success professors enjoy the same rights of participation and governance, and academic freedom protections as other full-time faculty. It will go a long way toward breaking down the systemic inequities the current system only serves to perpetuate.

¹See https://arc.accesslex.org/bs-collections/ and https://associationofacademicsupporteducators.org/scholarship/?sf_paged=2 for repositories that house a plethora of scholarship published by academic support and bar preparation educators.

The legal writing and academic and bar success communities are full of brilliant, creative, dedicated teachers and scholars who contribute just as much to their students, institutions and the legal academy as their colleagues who teach other subjects.

We suggest and request the following adjustments to the proposed language of Standard 405 and its associated interpretations.

AASE-proposed Redline: Standard 405: Professional Environment …

( c ) A law school shall afford to all full-time clinical faculty members the opportunity for tenure or a form of security of position reasonably similar to tenure and reasonably similar non-compensatory perquisites. A law school may require faculty members to meet reasonably similar standards and obligations. However, this Standard does not preclude a limited number of fixed, short-term appointments in a clinical, legal writing, or academic or bar success program predominantly staffed by full-time faculty members or in an experimental program of limited duration, and it also does not preclude the use of visiting faculty members who may be full-time faculty on short-term contracts.

( d ) A law school shall afford to all full-time faculty members reasonably similar participation in faculty meetings, voting, committees, and other aspects of law school governance. This subsection does not apply to those persons referred to in the last sentence of subsection (c).

Interpretation 405-6

A form of security of position reasonably similar to tenure includes a separate tenure track or a program of presumptively renewable long-term contracts. Under a separate tenure track, a full-time clinical, legal writing, or academic or bar success faculty member, after a probationary period reasonably similar to that for other full-time faculty, may be granted tenure. After tenure is granted, the faculty member may be terminated only for good cause, including termination or material modification of the entire clinical, legal writing, or academic or bar success program. A program of presumptively renewable long-term contracts shall provide that, after a probationary period reasonably similar to that for other full-time faculty, during which the faculty member may be employed on short-term contracts, the services of the faculty member may be either terminated or continued by the granting of a presumptively renewable long-term contract. For the purposes of this Interpretation, “presumptively renewable long-term contract” means at least a five-year contract whereby reappointment at the end of such a contract would be presumed and no justification for reappointment by the clinical, legal writing, or academic or bar success faculty member would be required, absent a good faith and substantial objection to reappointment made to or by the Dean. During the initial long-term contract or any renewal period, the contract may be terminated for good cause, including termination or material modification of the entire clinical, legal writing, or academic or bar success program.

Interpretation 405-7

In determining if the members of the full-time clinical, legal writing, and academic or bar success faculty meet standards and obligations reasonably similar to those provided for other full-time faculty, competence in the areas of teaching and scholarly research and writing should be judged in terms of the responsibilities of clinical, legal writing, and academic or bar success faculty. A law school should develop criteria for retention, promotion, and security of employment of for full-time clinical, legal writing, and academic or bar success faculty.

We applaud the Council for its decision to propose these changes and urge their full adoption with the inclusion of the revisions suggested herein.

Submitted on behalf of the Association of Academic Support Educators by:

Ashley London, President
Marsha Griggs, President Elect
Joni Wiredu, Vice President of Diversity
Rob Beharriell, Treasurer
Sarah Garrison, Treasurer Elect
Ronda Harrison, Secretary
Kiyana Kiel, Secretary Elect
Karen Hanson Wellman, Host School Representative