Paul L. Caron

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Duncan Law School Sues ABA Over Denial of Accreditation

LMU-Duncan School of Law_Page_1It has been quite a week for  Lincoln Memorial University, Duncan School of Law:

  • Sunday:  Duncan criticizes the ABA in a New York Times article on how the ABA drives up the cost of law schools.
  • Tuesday:  The ABA releases a letter denying Duncan's application for provisional accreditation.
  • Today: Duncan sues the ABA:

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Lawyers suing lawyers. Yeah, that'll work.

Posted by: Ralph Gizzip | Dec 23, 2011 12:10:48 PM

coercive monopoly.

ironic that the ABA doesn't recognize itself for what is...

I applaud the lawsuit. it will simply require the ABA explaining a subjective standard in court.

any reasoning that the ABA could/would put forward that the Duncan School of Law fails to meet 'their' standard will have to put forth. With over 200 existing law schools, they will have to find a reason that seperates DSoL, from the other 200.

sincerely doubt the ABA has the manpower to go forth and find the exclusionary reasoning, upon which all other accreditted institutions surpass, where LMU has failed.

i sincerely doubt that the ABA wants to have a thorough examination of their accounts, which a civil suit will invite.

they'll go broke defending this one.

Posted by: mark l. | Dec 23, 2011 11:21:22 AM

I sought to capture just how obstructionist and anti-innovative is the ABA's control over American legal education in an article that appeared last Spring in the Michigan State Law Review "Redesigning the American Law School". Putting aside issues of the enormous scale of student debt, the over-supply of lawyers relative to clients capable of paying for the services of private lawyers, and the low level of quality to which many clients are subjected in the process of legal representation I suggest there is NO EMPIRICAL DATA that show accreditation of the kind that imposes the existing model of US legal education has any connection with educational quality as opposed to the length, expense and volume of study. Everything that exists in this model is an assumption and a presumption that: A.if an ABA standard exists that it, B. produces a positive educational outcome of substantial value.

Nothing in fact establishes that to be the case. But this "Faustian pact" between the ABA and law schools has produced an extremely costly (to students) model of legal education without producing a demonstrated quality of skill within the legal profession. There is no need to totally do away with the ABA's accreditation power but it should be far more limited with alternative models of legal education allowed that may well be shorter, require less of an extensive curriculum, and take account of changes in methods and informational capabilities that have altered the traditional equation of law teaching and practice.

Some changes will (and are) occurring due to technological, cost and market pressures but they aren't enough to alter the flawed core of the basic model. Several potential shifts in ABA accreditation standards and policy will have significant implications, including approval of credit for distance learning, rapid movement toward assessment of law schools based on what are called “output” measurements, and even a decision that scholarly productivity measures are an inappropriate factor for the American Bar Association (contrasted with the AALS) to rely on in assessing the accredited status of a law school. These three accreditation prongs will have effects that include significant faculty reductions, higher faculty workloads, changes in tenure standards, and large-scale eliminations of the traditional law school research library. For the (many) law schools that choose to remain oblivious to the altered operational context, their adaptations will be ones developed in a crisis context as their applicant pools shrink, angry graduates are increasingly unable to find employment even while faced with educational debt equivalent to a home mortgage, and less expensive competitive institutions emerge that offer alternative approaches to legal education.

David Barnhizer

College of Law, Cleveland State University

Posted by: David Barnhizer | Dec 23, 2011 10:25:59 AM

A better case would be by a law school that keeps a copy of Wright & Miller in the library. There are a lot of charlatans out there and accreditation is a big protection.

Posted by: jim harper | Dec 23, 2011 9:40:24 AM

I've always had a question about the accreditation requirement. To get a government-issued license, you must get a certain education, at a school which is certified by a private organization (and one which represents a minority of the profession). The private organization is not bound by due process, restrained from "arbitrary and capricious" rule making, and in fact may have no legal duty to any institution or individual at all.

Posted by: Dave H | Dec 23, 2011 8:55:15 AM

According to the NLJ, Duncan was told in October that the ABA would deny it accreditation. But that fact didn't appear in the NYTimes story. I wonder why? It would seem important, as it may help explain why the Duncan representatives complained so bitterly about the accreditation requirements. Did they not tell David Segal, or did he exclude that fact to make it a better story? (None of this is to defend the ABA's intrusive requirements, just to point out that the story was misleading without noting that Duncan had already been warned that it would be denied accreditation.)

Posted by: anonprof | Dec 22, 2011 6:41:40 PM