Paul L. Caron

Friday, August 12, 2016

Ave Maria's Admissions Policies Violate ABA Standards, Law School Required To Take Immediate Remedial Action

Ave Maria LogoABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, Council Decision:  Public Notice of Specific Remedial Action—Ave Maria School of Law (Aug. 2016):


At its June 3-4, 2016 meeting, the Council conducted a hearing pursuant to Rules of Procedure 2, 3, 16-18, 21(c), 22, 24, and 25 with respect to the compliance of the Ave Maria School of Law (the “Law School”) with ABA Standard 501(a) and 501(b). This proceeding followed a hearing by and recommendation of the Accreditation Committee (the “Committee”), which hearing resulted from interim monitoring of the Law School, a process which began in the Spring of 2013, pursuant to ABA Rule of Procedure 6.

Following the hearing and based on the record, the Council affirmed the Committee’s conclusions that the Law School is not in compliance with Standard 501(a) ["A law school shall maintain sound admission policies and practices consistent with the Standards, its mission, and the objectives of its program of legal education"] and 501(b) ["A law school shall not admit an applicant who does not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar."]. The Council has directed the Law School to take the following specific remedial actions, including, but not limited to, this public notice.

Remedial Actions Required

Pursuant to its authority under Rules 2(f) and 25(b), the Council has directed that the Ave Maria School of Law take the following specific remedial actions:

a. Develop a written reliable plan for bringing the Law School into compliance with Standards 501(a) and 501(b), and submit that plan to the Managing Director by September 1, 2016.

b. Supply to the Committee by September 1, 2016 its admissions data and admissions methodology, which includes the Law School’s admissions practices and policies, for the fall 2016 entering class. Where factors other than grade point average and LSAT are used to support an admissions decision, report those factors and state why they were sufficient to overcome concerns inherent in the applicant’s academic qualifications and LSAT score.

c. Within five business days of the date of the Decision Letter reporting the Council’s decision, provide to all admitted students and publish on its website along with other ABA disclosures a statement of the specific remedial action the Law School is required to take. This statement, or a link to the statement on the Law School’s website, shall also be published on the website of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

d. Advise each Law School student, in writing within 30 days of the completion of the assignment and distribution of semester grades for the Law School’s students, of the following, in the same communication: (a) the Florida first-time bar examination passage rates, by class quartiles, for Law School graduates sitting for the Florida bar examinations over the six administrations preceding the semester, and (b) the class quartile in which the student then falls. This remedial action shall continue so long as the Law School is required to provide reports to the ABA pursuant to the Decision Letter it received. The Law School shall provide evidence to the Managing Director’s office, within five days of its distribution to students, that the required information has been appropriately and timely communicated.

Further and pursuant to Rules 2(f), 9, and 25(b)(2), the Managing Director shall appoint a fact finder to visit the Law School by October 1, 2016, to review the admissions policies and practices implemented by the Law School along with other data related and relevant to these policies and practices as well as to relevant graduate outcomes. The Accreditation Committee and the Council will then subsequently evaluate the Law School’s compliance with Standards 501(a) and 501(b) in light of that report. Based on that review, the Committee and the Council may take any appropriate action pursuant to Rules of Procedure 12(b) and 16-18. Further and pursuant to Rule 53(c)(4), the Managing Director is required and is directed to provide public notification of this Decision of the Council to impose specific remedial action on the Law School.

The Ave Herald, American Bar Association Finds Ave Maria's Admissions Practices Lacking:

"The finding of noncompliance with the standard on admissions is a disappointment but not a cause for alarm," the school's president, Kevin Cieply, said in an email statement to school staff and alumni. The law school, which is a separate institution from Ave Maria University and is located in North Naples, noted in the email that it is in full compliance with all other ABA standards governing the school's academic program, academic standards, academic support, financial resources and bar passage rates.

The school's statement also said that the incoming class shows increases in test scores and GPAs that were not available at the time the ABA council reviewed data on the law school. "We are confident that when the Committee reviews the additional information we will be submitting, including the credentials of our 1L [first-year] class, we will be found to be in full compliance," Mr. Cieply said.

Since 2011, Ave Maria's enrollment has fallen 45%, and it's median LSAT has fallen from 150 to 148.

Update:  Above the Law, American Bar Association Thinks Crappy Law School Is Crappy

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Some years ago wasn't there a lot of evidence that medium-ranked law schools were admitting black applicants whom they knew wouldn't pass the bar, based on past experience at that law school? Is that different because the black applicants did have high enough LSATs that they would have been able to pass the bar if they'd gone to a different law school? If so, that's perverse.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Aug 12, 2016 7:27:23 AM

Welcome but curious (and not just for the timing; this meeting appears to have taken place just a few weeks before NACIQI took the ABA behind the woodshed for, inter alia, its failure to warn, sanction, or deaccredit any law school in the last five years over terrible debt, bar passage, job placement, misleading stats, etc.). But my reading of the national comparison charts at Law School Transparency reveals 11 law schools with a lower 25th percentile LSAT scores (14 if one includes the PR law schools); a list that includes all three Infilaw schools and Cooley. 27 law schools (inc. PR schools) have lower median LSAT scores, including at least three other Florida law schools. 19 law schools have lower median GPA scores, including at least two other Florida law schools. And while Ave Maria's FL bar passage rate was the lowest for FL law schools last July, it was only a few percentile points lower than Barry, St. Thomas, and Florida Coastal.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 12, 2016 8:21:22 AM

There was a lot of talk and one serious empirical study which showed that the overwhelming majority of minorities admitted to ABA approved law schools eventually passed the bar exam.

Posted by: Bar Passage | Aug 12, 2016 2:46:51 PM

The ABA is a racket.

Posted by: Art Deco | Aug 13, 2016 11:10:10 AM

Quote: "["A law school shall not admit an applicant who does not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar."

Isn't this true of a lot of law schools, including prestigious ones. Indeed, isn't it true of the admissions policies at a numerous universities.

They admit people who can manage real majors and end up is some [insert self-appointed, agrieved group] studies programs.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Aug 13, 2016 12:50:55 PM

@Michael Perry,

Study after study shows that the major that gives students the smallest gains in critical reading, writing, and analysis is not "some inser self-appointed, aggrieved [sic] group] studies programs" (which I do believe you'll find account for fewer than 9,000 of the annual 1.85 million four-year graduates each year, in any event), but... business majors. And of course business majors are 1) the largest major cluster and 2) it's considered "relevant" or "topical" so everyone glosses over how useless they are as a course of study.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 13, 2016 3:35:19 PM

"Study after study shows that the major that gives students the smallest gains in critical reading, writing, and analysis is ... business majors."

That is not true.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Aug 14, 2016 6:10:26 AM

Law school must not violate these policies so it would be right that they take immediate action.

Posted by: David Bjornson | Aug 15, 2016 10:05:08 AM