UNT Dallas College of Law
UNT Dallas College of Law ()

There are now 10 accredited law schools in Texas.

UNT Dallas College of Law has won provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, said UNT Law Dean Royal Furgeson. Students will be overjoyed at the good news because graduating from an accredited law school opens up an entire world of job possibilities, he said.

“There are so many jobs—law firm jobs, public service jobs, state, local and federal jobs—that require graduation from an accredited law school,” said Furgeson. “It’s been hanging over their heads. You go to law school to get a job, and this is going to open up every opportunity for them. I’m so happy for them and pleased for them.”

Furgeson recalled that it’s been a long journey to gain provisional accreditation. In July 2016, the ABA accreditation committee recommended against accrediting UNT Law, citing concerns about UNT Law’s finances and its admission of students with low Law School Admission Test scores. But Furgeson appeared before the education section’s council in October 2016 and asked it to delay a decision and instead send the matter back to the accreditation committee. The section’s council did so in November 2016.

“We had really begun to make all the changes that the accreditation committee said were required for provisional accreditation,” he explained.

Not getting provisional accreditation from the get-go was a huge setback, but the Texas Supreme Court in December 2016 helped to lessen the blow by allowing the first crop of UNT Law graduates to sit for the bar exam, regardless of the school’s accreditation status.

Then earlier this year, the ABA’s education section sent a team to visit UNT Dallas again to further investigate the admissions and finance problems and report back to the accreditation committee. Furgeson said the team’s report was favorable, and in April, the committee did recommend provisional accreditation. The education section accepted that recommendation on June 3.

“Let me tell you, it makes this achievement all the sweeter because we had to work for it and fight for it and strive for it every day,” said Furgeson. “I’m feeling really happy. I just have undergone fairly serious back surgery, and I don’t think there’s anything that could speed my recovery better than this announcement.”

Furgeson said he thinks the school finally won provisional accreditation because it made the changes that the accreditation committee wanted to see. It tightened up its admissions standards to ensure that students wouldn’t be at risk for failing the bar exam. The school conducted further studies to ensure that there was a job market for its students, and a market for a night law school program in the area. It also scrutinized its finances to assure the ABA that it would remain financially sound even if enrollment dropped.

UNT Law will be able to gain full accreditation within three to five years. Furgeson noted that graduates’ bar passage rate will be very important, and so the school has set up a robust bar passage program. At a time when law schools around the country have closed down and others are facing serious financial stress, he said that the school also must continue to prove its financial situation is strong and stable. Furgeson said UNT Law would continue being careful in admissions and administering its academic program using constant testing, assessment and bar readiness.

“Getting this vote of confidence is indescribable. It opens up so many opportunities for our students. It’s a game changer in every way,” Furgeson said. “I’m so proud of everybody—the faculty, staff, students, our whole administration. The bar has opened its arms to us and been so supportive, the bench, the Supreme Court allowing us to take the bar exam. There are so many people to thank, and I wish I could thank them personally.”