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Law school accreditation

Law school accreditation

What is accreditation?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the meaning of accreditation is "to recognize (an educational institution) as maintaining standards that qualify the graduates for admission to higher or more specialized institutions or for professional practice."
In the United States, as of February 2003, 188 institutions had merited of American Bar Association desired seal of approval through the strict process known as accreditation. Through this process, which spans a minimum of three years (including a trial period known as "provisional accreditation"), the ABA decide whether or not a given law school adheres to its Standards for Legal Education—evaluating the level to which high values like honesty, responsibility, equality, and competence are promoted at the institution. The process of accreditation is meant to secure a level of national uniformity in legal education and practice.

Possible recognition decision outcomes

  • Approval - institutions recognized for up to 5 years.
  • Deferment - deficiencies do not permit immediate loss of recognition and institutions should be able to prove compliance within a maximum of 12 months.
  • Denial – If an institution fails to comply with criteria or is not successful in its performance.
  • Limit, postpone, or finish recognition of an already recognized institution.
  • Agencies can appeal final decisions.

ABA’s Standards for Approval of Law Schools

ABA considers the extent to which law schools comply with standards in the following areas:
  • Organization and administration
  • Program of legal education
  • Faculty
  • Admissions and student services
  • Library and information resources
  • Facilities
Provisional approval decided when schools demonstrate substantial conformity with each of the standards; must demonstrate full conformity to be totally approved.

Law schools generally fall into three categories of accreditation, American Bar Association (ABA) accredited, state accredited or unaccredited.
     ABA accreditation: "Law schools approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) provide a legal education which meets a minimum set of standards as promulgated by the ABA” according to the American Bar Association.
    Every jurisdiction in the United States has resolute that graduates of ABA-approved law schools are able to sit for the bar in their respective jurisdictions.

       State accreditation: There are many law schools that for one reason or another do not meet all of the ABA accreditation requirements. Some of these schools, however, do meet the states requirements (State requirements can vary by state).

       Unaccredited: According to the California Bar Association "An unaccredited law school is one working as a law school in the State of California that is neither accredited nor approved by the Commission”.