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A new law school year has begun, bringing with it a debate over a perennial subject: mandatory attendance. Several law blogs have been buzzing with debates by law professors and students on whether making attendance a requirement is necessary. Dave Hoffman, associate professor of law at Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law, said he follows his law school’s policy that if you miss more than 20% of classes, you can’t sit for the final exam. But Hoffman said the decision about attendance should be up to professors. “I generally feel the arguments for having a mandatory attendance policy are relatively weak and that law schools and law professors should be making their own decisions,” he said. Grades v. attendance A blog for which Hoffman writes, “Concurring Opinions,” is one of several where the academic community has been discussing law school attendance. The issue also surfaced on the blog last year before the start of the school year, with one professor saying he found only a small correlation between grades and attendance. But the professor, Rafael Pardo, associate professor of law at Seattle University School of Law, said it is important to require students to attend classes regularly. Pardo said that, if his students miss more than 20% of the classes, they are withdrawn from class, which he said he has done a couple of times. “My view is: You need to start treating this as a job,” he said. “You need to start imposing upon yourself the same standard that will be imposed upon you when you leave. When one graduates, it’s not just a matter of flipping the switch and having good habits.” Scott Greenfield, a solo practitioner in New York City, said he has seen a lot of debate on his blog, “Simple justice,” about whether law schools should have a mandatory attendance policy “It seems to be a big issue on the minds of law professors, but this is the wrong solution,” he said of a mandatory-attendance requirement. “The problem is: [The professors] can’t engage the students.” The American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, states that schools “shall require regular and punctual class attendance,” but does not specify a policy. Nancy Slonim, an ABA spokeswoman, said that anyone is welcome to suggest whether particular standards should be reviewed. In addition, all standards are subject to review every five years, and such an assessment is likely to start in 2010, she said. One recent law school graduate said that she never had issues with her professors requiring attendance. “I never thought a policy is a bad thing because those are the requirements of the profession,” said Kate Stewart, who graduated from University of Baltimore School of Law in May and presided over its student bar association.

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