It was a mixed bag this month for law schools seeking accreditation by the American Bar Association.
The ABA’s Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar on June 11 granted provisional accreditation to the University of California, Irvine School of Law, which opened in 2009 with a roster of high-profile faculty and highly credentialed students — a byproduct of the fact that private donors paid the full tuition of the inaugural class. It also granted full accreditation to Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, N.C., and to the Charlotte School of Law in Charlotte, N.C.
However, the section revoked the provisional accreditation that the University of La Verne College of Law has held since 2006, leaving the Ontario, Calif., school unaccredited by the national body. La Verne administrators were put on notice in early May that the ABA’s accreditation committee was recommending against full accreditation because of concerns over graduates’ low bar passage rates. The Council of the Section on Legal Education upheld that recommendation.
“We are deeply disappointed, but not defeated,” Dean Allen Easley said in a written statement. “Once we receive the council’s formal announcement, we will review the findings and take action accordingly. It remains our ultimate mission to provide the very best law school education and experience possible to our students.”
La Verne’s bar passage rate was a sticking point for the council last year. The accreditation committee recommended in 2010 that La Verne receive full accreditation, but the council — which has the final say — extended the school’s provisional accreditation for one year so it could gather more information about bar passage rates, admission decisions and related academic support.
In 2009, 34% of La Verne graduates passed the California bar examination on the first try, although 73% of those students have since passed the test, Easley said. In 2010, the school’s first-time bar passage rate increased to 53%. The ABA requires a school’s first-time bar passage rate be no more than 15% below that of other accredited law schools in the same jurisdiction each year.
Easley said that La Verne would attempt to regain provisional ABA accreditation while also applying for accreditation by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.
At Irvine, envisioned by its founders as an elite law school, administrators hailed the ABA’s decision to grant provisional accreditation.
“The ABA’s decision puts the official seal of approval on the hard work of the faculty, administrators, students, and supporters — both on campus and in the legal community,” Dean Erwin Chemerinsky said in a formal statement. “It’s the culmination of years of planning and execution.”
Irvine was granted provisional accreditation at the earliest possible time, and will be eligible for full accreditation in 2014.
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