Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ABA Denies Provisional Accreditation to Duncan Law School, Featured in Sunday's NY Times

LMU-Duncan School of Law_Page_1Two days after being featured in the New York Times article on how the ABA drives up the cost of law schools, Lincoln Memorial University, Duncan School of Law today was informed in this letter that the ABA denied provisional accreditation for the school.  In light of this news, these excerpts from the Times article are especially poignant:

The library at the Duncan School of Law may look like nothing more than 4,000 hardbacks in a medium-size room, but it is actually a high-tech experiment in cost containment. Most of its resources are online, and staples like Wright & Miller’s Federal Practice and Procedure — $3,596 for the multivolume set — are not here.

“We have a core collection,” says Sydney Beckman, the school’s dean, “and if someone needs something else, we provide it.”

Duncan, which opened two years ago, has 187 enrollees, all of whom have wagered that this library — and everything else about the school — is up to scratch. Because before these students can practice in every state, Duncan needs the seal of approval of the ABA, the government-anointed regulator of law schools.

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. Duncan’s library costs $750,000 a year to maintain — a bargain when compared with competitors.

Is it Cadillac enough for the A.B.A.?

“We’ll see,” Mr. Beckman says. ...

OnDec. 2, Mr. Beckman and six colleagues from Duncan traveled to a hotel in San Juan, P.R., where the A.B.A. held its latest council meeting. The school had 15 minutes at a hearing to offer its arguments for provisional accreditation.

“This is just a pet peeve,” Mr. Beckman said last week, “but there is all this talk about the cost of legal education, and they make us fly to Puerto Rico and meet at the Ritz-Carlton?”

After his presentation, Mr. Beckman and others answered a number of questions, including a few about the job market for lawyers in east Tennessee. This bothered Mr. Beckman because, for antitrust reasons, employment prospects are not part of the ABA’s standards. He pointed that out to the council. “They didn’t really respond,” he says.

Nor did they hint at whether they would give Duncan a thumbs-up. In the past, law schools have learned a few days after their hearings. But since Dec. 2, there has been nothing. “The last thing we heard — and they didn’t mean this to be rude or anything — was at the end of the meeting in Puerto Rico,” Mr. Beckman says. “They said, ‘You can let yourselves out.’ “

Legal Education | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference ABA Denies Provisional Accreditation to Duncan Law School, Featured in Sunday's NY Times:


It seems apparent that the majority of States feel that their own bar exam is inadequate to assess the legal knowledge and proficiency demonstrated by those who pass. If not, we are only left with the suspicion of collusion between the ABA and a majority of State legistlatures to restrict fair competition in the market.

Posted by: Justin Bell | Jan 5, 2012 3:21:47 PM

I don't have an issue with accreditation, but why is the bar association (or the government for that matter) permitted to restrict who takes the bar exam or say those who pass can't practice law unless they went to an accredited school? Whether this denial is legit or not, the bar association has way too much authority here, with an extremely high potential for abuse.

Posted by: J | Dec 23, 2011 7:19:28 AM

This is kind of a sissy post. Does anyone at the ABA have a name? Until jerks can't hide behind the name of an organization they will continue to behave in unsupportable ways. Who will find us names and e-mail addresses?

Posted by: Al Miller | Dec 21, 2011 8:46:55 AM

Thomas Jefferson never went to law school. Instead he read law while clerking in to office of George Wythe and was admitted to the bar after demonstrating a thorough understanding of the legal system. I submit this as proof that law school is about political indoctrination, not a legal education.

Posted by: Lance o Lot | Dec 21, 2011 4:45:40 AM

There should not be any such thing as accreditation. If you can pass the bar (the way it used to be) you can practice law. Whether passing the bar should even be required is another question (reputation can and should be the only "credential" required), but certainly no one should have to go pay for any stinking school when they can just as well self-educate.

My grandfather was an entirely self-taught lawyer. He never finished high school, got permission to read law books at night at a local law office, passed the bar, and ended up as one of Maryland's most eminent lawyers, arguing cases before the Supreme Court and settling the boundary between Maryland and Delaware.

Posted by: Alec Rawls | Dec 20, 2011 3:53:46 PM

"...ABA, the government-anointed regulator of law schools"

Just what is the legal authority of the ABA? How did a professional organization acquire a government function?

Posted by: LarryD | Dec 20, 2011 3:09:06 PM

The scales of justice needs recalibration and a good peer review.

Posted by: J Peter | Dec 20, 2011 3:02:31 PM

Did the ABA letter to the university provide any written basis (or bases) for the denial? The letter on the ABA site does not.

I ask because how would an applicant appeal such a decision unless provided knowledge as to where the applicant was judged to have fallen short?

Posted by: jim2 | Dec 20, 2011 2:45:29 PM

Wouldn't an anti-trust lawsuit against the ABA be a hoot?

Posted by: tom beebe st louis | Dec 20, 2011 2:32:38 PM