TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, November 6, 2017

Florida Coastal Responds To ABA's Finding Of Noncompliance With Accreditation Standards: 'Our 1L Entering Credentials Exceed 23 Other Law Schools'

Florida Coastal (2017)Following up on last week's post, ABA Notices To Law Schools About Potential Non-Compliance With Accreditation Standards:

Letter from ABA Section on Legal Education to Florida Coastal Law School (Oct. 12, 2017):

In accordance with U.S. Department of Education regulations [34 C.F.R. § 602.26 and § 602.27(a)(6) and (a)(7)] applicable to recognized accrediting agencies, the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is required to post a letter describing the basis for an action when the Accreditation Committee concludes that a law school is significantly out of compliance with ABA Standards pursuant to Rule 12(a)(4).

At its September 14-15, 2017 meeting, the Accreditation Committee (the "Committee") considered the status of the Florida Coastal School of Law (the "Law School") and concluded that the Law School is not in compliance with the following Standards:

(a) Standard 301(a), with regard to the requirement that the Law School shall maintain a rigorous program of legal education that prepares its students, upon graduation, for admission to the bar and for effective, ethical, and responsible participation as members of the legal profession;

(b) Standard 309(b), with regard to the requirement that the Law School shall provide academic support designed to afford students a reasonable opportunity to complete the program of legal education, graduate, and become members of the legal profession; and

(c) Standards 501(a) and 501(b) and Interpretation 501-1, with respect to the requirements that the Law School shall maintain sound admissions policies and practices consistent with the Standards, its mission, and the objectives of its program of legal education, and that the Law School shall not admit applicants who do not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.

The Law School has been asked to submit a report by November 1, 2017, and to appear before the Accreditation Committee at its March 15-17, 2018 meeting. If the information provided in the written report demonstrates compliance with the Standards listed above, then the Committee may find the Law School to be in compliance with the Standards and cancel the hearing.

News4Jax, I-TEAM: Jacksonville Law School Under Scrutiny For Academics, Admissions:

The I-TEAM has learned that a Jacksonville law school has been told it needs to make improvements to its academic programs or risk facing penalties related to its accreditation.

The American Bar Association has notified the Florida Coastal School of Law that it is “significantly out of compliance” with the association’s standards for accredited law schools. The association’s managing director of accreditation and legal education sent a letter to FCSL’s president and dean on Oct. 12, informing them of the findings. ...

During the most recent administration of Florida’s bar exam in July, 47.7 percent of FCSL graduates taking the exam for the first time passed it. That rate was the lowest among all law schools in Florida for that testing period. ...

Wednesday afternoon, the Florida Coastal School of Law released the following statement to the I-TEAM:

It is true that the ABA found us out of compliance based on the 2012-2016 period. There are many misconceptions about what this means. For example, we do not believe we are out of compliance at the present. The ABA’s decision was based on historical data and likely influenced by our recent bar passage results. It was also made before the ABA could have seen the 90 percent improvement in our Florida first-time bar pass results from February to July. In addition, there are over 50 ABA Standards and the ABA ultimately focused on three in our letter, all of which at their core relate to bar passage. The ABA notified us that we are out of compliance on these 3 out of 50 Standards in order to give us the opportunity to dispute that finding or to make changes at the school to bring ourselves into compliance. As noted below, we believe we have already made the changes necessary to satisfy the ABA that we are currently in compliance.

We are confident that we are currently in compliance because starting with our fall 2016 class we have greatly raised incoming credentials, placing us above approximately 23 other law schools and on a par with 15 additional schools. (We do not have the admission standards for 2017 from other law schools, but we can compare Florida Coastal’s 2017 admission results to last year’s published statistics in U.S. News & World.) This increase in incoming credentials will produce increases in bar results; but because law school is a three-year program, we will not see these improvements immediately.

In addition, our data indicates that students who remain at Coastal outperform on the Florida bar exam students with the same credentials who transfer to Barry University, Florida A&M, Florida State, St. Thomas, University of Florida, and the University of Miami schools of law. We expect that the ABA in reviewing our compliance will find this comparison quite helpful.

In summary, we fully expect the ABA to find us in compliance at their next opportunity.

Legal Education | Permalink


"we are currently in compliance because starting with our fall 2016 class we have greatly raised incoming credentials"

The credential splits for the fall 2016 class are 2.57 / 2.87 / 3.27 and 141 / 144 / 149. A 144 - the median score - is the 22nd percentile of LSAT scores. For comparison's sake, the 22nd percentile on the 2016 SAT is 827. As for the quarter of the class that, at best, had a 2.57 in undergrad and 141 on the LSAT, well, that's equivalent to rocking a 780.

Also their argument that they are in compliance with 301 and 309 is paper-thin.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 6, 2017 11:09:02 PM