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Law Schools Must Provide Anti-Bias Training to Students

In July 2020, 150 law school deans signed a letter asking the American Bar Association (ABA) to require law schools to “provide training and education around bias, cultural competence, and anti-racism.” They asserted that this information was essential to “professional competence, legal practice, and being a lawyer.” The deans suggested the specific content of the training be left to each institution. An ABA council approved the new requirement soon after. After leaving the proposal open for public comment, the ABA received some pushback. Some of the comments expressed concern that bias training would interfere with doctrinal education or would force a particular ideology. 10 Yale law professors stated bias training was an “unwarranted intrusion” on the autonomy of law schools.

The new rule does not require schools to introduce specific courses. Schools may meet their training obligations during orientation, guest lectures, and courses on racism and bias in the law as well as other opportunities. Students would need to receive this training before beginning clinical work or field placements. In its final iteration, schools must provide the training both when students begin their legal studies and again before they graduate.

The ABA also added ethnicity, gender identity, and military status within the definition of prohibited discrimination for accredited institutions. The new bias training could be required as early as fall 2022.