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Law school must re-apply for ABA accreditation

Lauren Creiman
News Editor

After losing provisional accreditation from American Bar Association in July, the College of Law was granted California Bar Association accreditation last month. The college will reapply for ABA accreditation.

An immediate re-application approval from the ABA allows the College of Law to forgo the traditional 10-month waiting period and begin preparing a new application.

“It was important to get CBA accreditation so that graduates could take the California Bar Exam, and that step was successful,” said Allen Easley, dean of the College of Law.

“The second step, getting expedited approval for ABA reaccreditation, is still in the works, so it’s too soon to tell if it’s a success,” he said.

CBA accreditation is good news for the law school, which has experienced major troubles since losing its ABA accreditation on July 14 and subsequently lost more than one-third of its student body.

The loss of those students meant a loss of $4.3 million in tuition revenue.

CBA accreditation qualifies all ULV law graduates to take the California Bar Exam. Passing the bar exam is a requirement to practice law in the state.

However, without ABA accreditation, graduates will not be able to apply for admission to the bar and potentially practice law in any other state.

“Speaking for myself, if the University of La Verne has a law school, it has to be ABA accredited,” said Jonathan Reed, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

State accreditation was granted after the college was found in compliance with state guidelines, which establish standards in relation to honesty and integrity, governance, administration and faculty, admissions, academic program, scholastic standards, library resources, physical and financial resources and more.

The American Bar Association’s decision to withdraw provisional accreditation was based primarily on the College of Law’s low first-time bar pass rate.

A law school is required under ABA rules to have a first-time bar passage rate that is no more than 15 percent below that of other accredited law schools in the same jurisdiction each year.

The ABA Council’s overall opinion was that the law school’s first-time pass rate had not sufficiently improved, although it jumped from 34 percent in 2009 to 53 percent in 2010.

The attempt to make the College of Law eligible for ABA accreditation has been a multimillion dollar effort that has lasted more than 10 years.

For its current attempt, the College of Law has since hired a former USC dean with 20 years’ experience as a consultant to offer advice on how to prepare for the process.

President Devorah Lieber­man will also meet with ABA representatives between Sept. 27 and Nov. 4 to determine what further actions can be taken to secure accreditation.

“Having ABA accreditation would be a great benefit to our students because it makes the school a more attractive choice and will continue to bring in stronger students as we have been doing for the last five years,” Easley said.

Although the CBA accreditation is good news, students and faculty across the University are still anxious for the process of regaining ABA accreditation to begin.

“CBA accreditation is a step down from ABA, but it is a necessary stop-gap for the present,” Reed said.

Easley said that regaining ABA accreditation will give College of Law graduates better job opportunities.

“(The CBA and ABA) are different regulatory bodies, and the California Bar is at a lower, easier level,” said Justin Janzen, adjunct professor of communications and alumnus of the La Verne College of Law.

Janzen said that CBA accreditation is not as prestigious as ABA accreditation, since its standards are lower.

ABA-accredited colleges in Southern California include the UCLA School of Law, Chapman University School of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law and Gould School of Law at USC.

CBA-accredited colleges include the San Joaquin College of Law, Lincoln Law Schools of Sacramento and San Jose and the Southern California Institute of Law.

“The law school has been in existence for over 40 years, and I believe it has always been taken seriously by the community and valued in the Inland Empire,” Easley said. “We’ve been attracting a broader spectrum of students, and if we regain ABA accreditation we can continue to do so.”

In an email update on the status of the College of Law, Provost Greg Dewey said if all goes well with the reapplication process, the college could regain its ABA provisional approval in March 2012 and apply for full approval within three to five years of that date.

“ABA accreditation is basically the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, and the measure of a quality program,” Easley said.

“It’s something we want to have.”

Lauren Creiman can be reached at lauren.creiman@laverne.edu.

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