American Bar Association / ABA, Bar Exams, Law Schools

Another Law School Sued, But This Time With Allegations of ‘Negligent Enrollment’

We’ve previously written about all of the problems that have befallen Duncan School of Law’s hopes for provisional accreditation by the American Bar Association. With motions pending in Duncan Law’s antitrust lawsuit against the ABA, perhaps the school thought that it could enjoy a momentary respite from all of the negative media attention it’s been receiving.

No such luck. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, a law student has now sued the school — but not because she couldn’t get a job, like the plaintiffs in the other law school lawsuits we’ve seen this year. Instead, this law student is suing the school because she claims that Duncan Law “negligently allowed her to enroll.”

Who is suing the law school, and what are her allegations?

The law student in question is Morgan Crutchfield, a part-time student at Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law, and she’s seeking $750,000 in damages. She alleges that the law school allowed her to enroll despite the fact that she had yet to complete her bachelor’s degree. Why is that a problem? After all, you don’t need to finish your undergraduate degree to attend other esteemed institutions of legal education, like Cooley Law School.

The Knoxville News Sentinel has more information:

Morgan Crutchfield

Crutchfield said in the suit she informed administrators at the law school immediately after learning she was lacking a foreign language requirement to graduate from Pennsylvania State University in 2009. Officials at Lincoln Memorial, however, told her it wouldn’t be a problem so long as she completed her undergraduate degree before her final year of law school, according to the lawsuit. …

Last month, the state Board of Law Examiners informed Crutchfield that rules require her to have completed her undergraduate degree before beginning law school in order to sit for the state bar exam.

Ouch. Crutchfield claims that she’s accrued $80,000 in student loan debt to attend Duncan Law. Now she’s trying to withdraw from the school. All that money, down the drain.

To be fair, the school opened its doors in 2009; it’s still fairly new to this game. Maybe the administrators legitimately believed that Crutchfield didn’t need to complete her undergraduate degree before enrolling. Alas, another theory is that the administrators just wanted Crutchfield’s tuition money and turned a blind eye to the rules. This is the view of Crutchfield’s attorney, Hugh Ward Jr.:

“They discarded the rules at the very least, and I think that as attorneys and as administrators, they’re bound to know what the requirements are when they’re attempting to bring students into the law program.”

But isn’t Crutchfield getting ahead of herself with this lawsuit? She was on track to graduate from Duncan Law in 2013, but with the way things are going, the school isn’t going to be granted accreditation of any kind from the ABA in the near future. And while the state had previously granted approval for Duncan Law graduates to take the bar exam, it looks like that courtesy may not be extended for much longer. From the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners (TBLE):

In the event that the Duncan School of Law (DSOL) fails to obtain provisional accreditation from the ABA prior to December 31, 2012, or if after obtaining ABA provisional accreditation, DSOL fails to obtain ABA accreditation within the timeframe required by the ABA, then upon written notice from the TBLE to DSOL, and after an opportunity for DSOL to be heard on the issues, the TBLE may withdraw and rescind the approval granted.

If anything, Duncan Law did this girl a solid, because in all likelihood, she was never going to be able to take the bar exam. Apparently hindsight is 20/20 when you choose to go to an unaccredited law school.

Law student files negligence suit against LMU [Knoxville News Sentinel]

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