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Proposal to lift ban on academic credit for paid externships draws heavy opposition

A proposed change in the law school accreditation standards that would lift the ban on students receiving academic credit for paid externships has drawn a lot of comment—and much of the comment is in opposition to lifting the ban.

Under the current standards, law students are barred from receiving both credit and pay for an externship. But the governing council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has approved for notice and comment a proposal that would eliminate the ban.

That proposal is just one of four proposed changes in the standards (PDF) that the council has posted for notice and comment. But it is the one that has drawn the lion’s share(PDF) of comments. And most of those comments have been negative.

The proposed changes were also the subject of a public hearing Friday at which representatives from two legal education groups—the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) and the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA)—spoke out against lifting the ban.

Alexander W. Scherr, an associated professor and director of civil clinics at the University of Georgia School of Law, representing CLEA, said that whatever benefits might come from repealing the ban do not outweigh the harm it would do to students.

“The rule against credit for paid employment remains a necessary part of the standards’ insistence on the educational value of a field placement course,” he said.

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