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Just one year ago, the outlook was bleak for the Florida A&M University College of Law’s bid to secure full accreditation from the American Bar Association. A seven-member team from the ABA had released a scathing report faulting the law school for faculty infighting, low bar-passage rates and a variety of other problems. On top of that, the offshoot of the historically black Florida A&M was running out of time — under the terms of its provisional accreditation, administrators had until August 2009 to secure full accreditation. The law school’s fortunes took a turn for the better last week, when the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar granted it full accreditation. That move had been expected after an ABA accreditation committee recommended approval in early July, and it could help ensure the survival of the school in the future. “I was, of course, very pleased,” said Dean LeRoy Pernell. “I think that for everyone who has worked hard to do this, it’s a vindication of their faith. This school has a mission to help diversify the profession and help create individuals interested in helping the public.” The ABA site visit that produced the harsh report took place in October of 2007, several months before Pernell took over as dean. In the subsequent year and a half, the school took numerous steps to address the problems cited in the report, said Pernell, who was hired from the top post at Northern Illinois University College of Law to help turn Florida A&M’s program around. One of the main problems cited was that there had been little stability in the law school’s top administrative leadership. There hadn’t been a permanent dean in several years, and communication was not as good as it should have been between administrators at Florida A&M’s main campus in Tallahassee, Fla., and those at the law campus in Orlando, Fla., Pernell said. It helped that the university had a new president who agreed that accreditation was a top priority for the law school. “Once we got some administrative stability, that allowed for easier strategic planning,” Pernell said. “It improved how the university and the law school functioned together.” Pernell added 16 teaching positions last year and increased administrative support in areas such as career counseling and financial aid. The program has about 50 faculty now and 620 students. The changes have paid off, Pernell said. Full accreditation will allow Florida A&M law students to sit for the bar in any state and will help in student and faculty recruiting. The long and difficult road to accreditation is just the latest chapter in the College of Law’s dramatic history. The school was founded in 1949 in Tallahassee as a segregated institution. In 1966, Florida legislators ordered the school closed in conjunction with court-ordered desegregation and a new law school was opened at Florida State University, also in Tallahassee. The last class graduated from the Florida A&M law school in 1968. The law school reopened in 2002 in Orlando with a $40 million taxpayer investment and received provisional ABA accreditation two years later. The ABA conducted its most recent site visit in February, and those findings were central to the decision to grant the school full accreditation. “I always believed it would happen,” Pernell said. “There was a commitment to this up and down the line.” Karen Sloan can be reached at [email protected] .

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