Low bar pass rates at issue
The University of La Verne’s College of Law is currently working toward getting full American Bar Association accreditation by June 2011.
If it is not successful, the college will be back at square one and will have to start the five-year process all over.
Without ABA accreditation, the Law School’s graduates will be permitted to practice law in the state of California only.
Currently under the school’s provisional accreditation, graduates may practice in any state.
“We are in our last year of the five-year process for getting our accreditation approved,” Allen Easley, dean of the College of Law, said.
“Our accreditation is not on probation, but is provisional,” Easley said.
“Provisional approval acts as full approval for graduates.”
However the word provisional may have a negative influence on prospective students looking into which law school to attend.
“I am looking into going to law school after I graduate this coming May,” Mike Lindsey, senior business management major, said. “The accreditation of a school would affect my choice in what school I am looking into.”
“Law school is expensive so I want to go to a school with full accreditation so I do not have to worry about where I can practice law upon graduation,” Lindsey said.
While full accreditation sounds better than provisional, provisional acts as full accreditation for when students graduate.
The College of Law has over the years made numerous attempts to achieve ABA accreditation.
“Our college could have been approved sooner if the bar exam scores were higher,” said Easley.
“The 2009 test year was not our good year for scores; however that is a mystery … because the students of that year had higher credentials than previous years.”
The bar exam is a three-day test consisting of one day of multiple choice questions and two days of essays.
The California Bar Exam is considered one of the most difficult in the country.
After the class of 2009’s low scores – with a passage rate of just 35 percent on first try – the College of Law has been taking action to improve bar exam scores and to help prepare its students when the exam presents itself.
“We actually started making changes before we got the 2009 test scores back because it takes about four months to receive the results,” Easley said.
“We are putting more resources out for students to help them get higher scores. Our previous part-time, one-person bar support staff is now a full-time bar exam coordinator and we will be getting a full-time bar exam counselor to help with the preparation.”
This new staff will be available to teach the students how to take and properly prepare for the exam.
“These two will help teach third-year students in a class on how to prepare for the exam, and they will also offer one-on-one help,” Easley said.
While on the main campus of ULV, the college did not have a real facility or the room to properly prepare them to get ABA approval.
Without a real facility, the ABA does not give approval.
“The city of Ontario gave us our new facility and we have been in this location for about 10 years now,” Easley said.
“We pushed harder for accreditation approval once we got this facility.”
With this journey towards full accreditation, stress is high among faculty and staff.
Despite the stressful events, some of the current law students still have a positive view of the school.
“I am comfortable right now with the school only having provisional accreditation because I know we are under review to get approved,” Ashley Mendez, a first year law student, said.
“It is still a really great law school, even with provisional accreditation.I have faith that the school will receive its accreditation.”
A small accreditation site team will be visiting the college in October and afterwards the team will prepare a report with their findings.
The college will find out the results of this review in June 2011.
If all goes well and major issues are not found, the College of Law will then receive full accreditation from the ABA.
If their revision comes back negatively, it will be up for debate by the ABA to decide whether the school will keep their provisional accreditation or start the five-year process from the beginning.
Brittany Lawrence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.