Belmont University College of Law has won provisional accreditation by the American Bar Association. 

The Nashville law school opened in 2011 and reached that milestone at the earliest opportunity, meaning its inaugural graduating class next year will be able to take the bar examination in any state.

"We are extremely pleased by this recognition of the legal education program that [Dean] Jeff Kinsler and the faculty of Belmont College of Law have developed," university provost Thomas Burns said. "The granting of provisional accreditation by the ABA validates the outstanding work being done by our administration, faculty and staff to develop a law program of the highest quality focused on preparing practice-ready attorneys."

Belmont’s smooth path to ABA approval stands in contrast to Tennessee’s other newcomer, the Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law in Knoxville. Duncan — which opened in 2009 — was denied provisional accreditation by the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in December 2011. The council cited concerns over the school’s strategic planning; academic standards and achievement; and the academic credentials of incoming students.

Duncan sued the ABA, accusing the organization of violating antitrust laws, but dropped its suit in November after the ABA allowed it to restart the accreditation process. The school’s new accreditation bid could be decided by the end of 2013, administrators have said. Without ABA approval, Duncan graduates may take the bar exam only in Tennessee.

ABA accreditors revoked provisional accreditation for the University of La Verne College of Law in 2011 due to concerns over bar passage rates. The ABA again granted the Ontario, Calif., school provisional accreditation 10 months later, after it demonstrated improved bar passage rates.

The most recent provisional accreditation approval came a year ago, for the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth School of Law.

Law schools first become eligible to apply for provisional accreditation after one year of operation. Belmont can apply for full accreditation after operating for three years under the provisional status, but has five years in which to obtain full accreditation. With the addition of Belmont, 203 law schools are accredited by the ABA.

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com.