Students at the University of La Verne College of Law can breathe a bit easier.

The school regained provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association, that organization announced on March 26. The decision means that current 3Ls will be able to sit for the bar examination in any state.

“Our academic programs have consistently been found to be in substantial compliance with ABA standards,” interim Dean Phillip Hawkey said in a written response. “This approval acknowledges the outstanding quality of education provided by La Verne law.”

The past year has been a rollercoaster for the Ontario, Calif., law school. The ABA’s Council of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar revoked its provisional accreditation — which it gained in 2006 — in June amid concerns over low bar passage rates.

In 2009, 34 percent of La Verne students passed the California bar exam on their first try. In 2010, the school’s first-time bar passage rate increased to 53 percent. However, the ABA requires that a first-time bar passage rate be no more than 15 percent below that of other accredited law schools in the same jurisdiction.

The ABA waived the 10-month waiting period for the school to reapply for provisional accreditation. In August the State Bar of California accredited the school, guaranteeing that graduates would be able to sit for the California Bar exam.

Former La Verne Dean Allen Easley abruptly resigned on Jan. 9. He had led the school’s efforts to secure accreditation and served on the ABA committee reviewing law school accreditation standards, although his term ended last fall. La Verne officials tapped Hawkey to fill in. He is an executive vice president at the university and has served on several ABA accreditation site visit teams.

The Council of Legal Education voted to give the school provisional accreditation during a meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on March 16. It announced the decision this week, offering no explanation for why it had reversed its earlier decision. The school said the ABA conducted an “extensive review of the law school’s program of legal education, faculty, admissions and student services, facilities and bar pass rate.”

Hulett “Bucky” Askew, the ABA’s consultant on legal education, said that La Verne would have five years to obtain full accreditation. The school cannot a pply for full accreditation for at least three years.

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