Friday, December 23, 2011

Duncan Law School Sues ABA

No surprise here. Duncan Law School, the Tennessee law school featured in last Sunday's NY Times article about the business of law schools has lost their bid for accreditation. See the post here for a link to that article and some details.

In today's article - New Law School Sues Bar Association - David Segal reports that one of the reasons for the ABA's refusal to accredit Duncan is that admission standards are not high enough to satisfy the current ABA standard. As Segal writes -
Specifically, the council found that Duncan, which is part of Lincoln Memorial University, fell short of a standard that prohibited the school from enrolling students who did not appear “capable of satisfactorily completing its educational program and being admitted to the bar.” The standard, say legal scholars, is to protect students from schools that are trying to cover their costs by admitting people who are unlikely to succeed.
Duncan's Dean, Sydney Beckman disagreed. As Segal notes -
Mr. Beckman countered that the median Law School Admission Test score of Duncan’s incoming students is 147 (out of a possible 180), which he said met or exceeded the scores of eight accredited schools. He added that the grade-point average of incoming students met or exceeded roughly 30 A.B.A.-approved schools.
Of course, if the students at Duncan are willing to practice only in Tennessee the school need not be accredited by the ABA. California has a number of law schools that are only state accredited. As financial realities continue to impinge on the ideal it is possible that more students will forgo the ABA accredited school in favor of lower tuition. That would be a free market economy development that might actually change the law school business model.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Yet Another Article About the Future of Law Schools and the Profession

Once again, the NY Times has printed a lengthy article about the problems associated with legal education. Sunday's article by David Segal - For Law Schools, a Price to Play the A.B.A.’s Way - is yet another examination of the current law school environment, especially the business of running a law school. The article focuses on the Duncan School of Law in Tennessee. Duncan is looking for ABA accreditation but they find that in order to get accredited they must comply with a series of onerous and arcane ABA regulations -
That means complying with a long list of standards that shape the composition of the faculty, the library and dozens of other particulars. The basic blueprint was established by elite institutions more than a century ago, and according to critics, it all but prohibits the law-school equivalent of the Honda Civic — a low-cost model that delivers.

Instead, virtually every one of the country’s 200 A.B.A.-accredited schools, from the lowliest to the most prestigious, has to build a Cadillac, or at least come close.

The net result is that the American people are under-represented. As Segal puts it -

...the United States churns out roughly 45,000 lawyers a year, but survey after survey finds enormous unmet need for legal services, particularly in low- and middle-income communities. This year, the World Justice Project put the United States dead last among 11 high-income countries in providing access to civil justice.
In the end, it is the ABA's stranglehold on legal education that is feeding the current crisis in law schools: law graduates with an unsustainable debt load. Complying with the ABA regulations isn't cheap and it is higher tuition that foots that bill...

Monday, December 12, 2011

ABA Acts on Recent Graduate Employment Data Collection

As expected, the ABA Legal Education Section Council approved a new questionaire designed to elecit more accurate information about recent graduate employment from law schools. The full story from the ABA Law News Now is here. The article detailed the contents and purpose of the new questionaire thus:

The revised questionnaires will also require law schools to report how many graduates are working in various job types and their status, including how many are in jobs requiring a law degree, how many are in other professional or nonprofessional jobs, how many are pursuing graduate degrees and how many are unemployed and either seeking or not seeking work. Schools will also be required to report information about graduates' employment location, whether a position is short-term or long-term and whether it is funded by the school from which the job-holder graduated.
This means, of course, that law schools will no longer be able to temporarily hire their own graduates in order to boost their postgraduate employment stats. And, they will need to disclose when a fully employed graduate is actually fully employed as a barista or waiter.