The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an “HBCU” as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.” Out of 105 current HBCUs, five of them operate law schools: Howard University, Texas Southern University, Southern University, Florida A&M University, and North Carolina Central University. The University of the District of Columbia also enrolls a predominantly black student body, and is home to a law school, but it is not considered an official HBCU by the Higher Education Act of 1965 because it was formed after 1964.
These schools purport to fulfill a noble mission: opening the doors to the legal profession once shut by generations of racial oppression. They offer not only a distinctive purpose in admissions but also a distinctive experience for their students and faculty. Providing access to legal education to historically — and often contemporarily — disenfranchised black men and women is a laudable goal.
Do you know what else is a laudable goal? Getting those same men and women to pass the bar exam so that they can actually practice law. And there’s the rub….
We’ve followed the story of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School of Law (f.k.a. Southern New England School of Law) ever since its inception. Southern New England was a private, unaccredited law school that was acquired by UMass to become the first public law school in Massachusetts.
I’ve been critical of UMass Law, because there was no evidence whatsoever that Massachusetts needed another law school. I’ve been dismissive of the people who have said, “No no no, Massachusetts needs a public law school,” because even though the word “public” connotes something that is good for everybody, I struggle to see how paying $24,178 per year to go to an unaccredited law school helps anybody.
But now it looks like UMass will receive ABA accreditation. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with their tuition next….
At some point, the Department of Education is going to have to step in and put a stop to the American Bar Association’s monopoly over the standards for legal education. The ABA has gotten to the point where it’s just trolling us — making patently ridiculous decisions as if it doesn’t even have to pretend to have a grasp on the challenges facing prospective law students and the legal profession.
The ABA’s “watchdog” for law schools is stepping down. Hulett “Bucky” Askew, of John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, has served as the ABA’s consultant on legal education since 2006. Note: that’s a pre-recession date. I take this as more evidence (as if we needed more) that the ABA has been operating with a pre-recession mentality throughout the entire recession and quasi-recovery.
But let’s stop crying about the ABA’s almost comically slow response to the shifting legal education market. Wait until you get a load of the guy who’s going to be Askew’s interim replacement…
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?
Is it right for a law school to send its students to tolerance camp? Mandatory tolerance camp? Mandatory tolerance camp, where unexcused absences will result in an intolerant notation placed in students’ permanent records?
When I came across the story of a state law school holding a “mandatory” diversity seminar that students were required to attend, my first instinct was to side with the students who objected to the required nature of the program. Generally, I’m not a fan of forcing people to be nice to each other, and you can’t force a man to change what’s in his heart. If students want to be racist or prejudiced to others in their community, that’s something that may demand an institutional response. But if some kids don’t think they’ll benefit much from “diversity training,” whatever that means, so be it.
But when the ABA’s committee on accreditation is telling law school administrators that the student body needs to work on its racial sensitivity, well, you can see how the law school is in a bit of a bind…
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.” In contrast, Thomas Jefferson School of Law does not tremble before the toothless authority of the ABA. In fact, the school feels free to respond to utter institutional FAIL with peevish blame-shifting. Either TJSL has a serious problem with its admissions standards or it fails students once they arrive. Or some combo platter thereof. Does it matter? Let’s all stipulate that this is a “bad thing.” But what, if anything, should be done?
There are obviously a range of legal/societal stances toward the treatment of “bad things.” Bad things like cigarettes are legal but have mandatory warning labels. Bad things like the New York Lottery are just a Darwinian tax on the ignorant. Predatory subprime mortgage lenders are subject to a patchwork of federal and state laws. Ponzi schemers face criminal fraud charges. Where a law school charging $120,000 for a dubious product fits into the scheme of bad things is open to debate. So we reader-sourced the question. Last week, we conducted a research poll asking:
• Should the ABA impose national minimum LSAT and/or GPA standards for entry into accredited law schools?
• In what range should the LSAT & GPA cutoffs be?
• Should law schools lose their accreditation if their graduates’ bar passage rates fall below a certain threshold?
• Below what level should a school’s accreditation be in jeopardy?
After the jump, you tell us whether and where the lines should be drawn….
It woud be nice if the Senate could have actually given this guy a vote instead of forcing the present ugliness.
* The recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB could get tricky — not because Republicans are outraged by recess appointments (much like Democrats are outraged by obstructionist filibusters), but because Congress isn’t technically in recess, due to the sham sessions Congress has been running. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Is it really that surprising that the unemployed are NOT on drugs? Aren’t Republicans the ones who are supposed to understand that in a market, desirable goods cost money? If you want to drug test a constituency, do a random raid at a white-shoe law firm, and don’t forget your chemistry set. [Huffington Post]
* It’s nice to ask permission before you appropriate somebody’s song as your campaign theme. [Fox News]
* Thanks to everybody who voted for us as their favorite legal blog for news in the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 poll. You’ve given us the strength to keep reporting on spring bonuses, even though they don’t technically exist yet. [ABA Journal]
Over the weekend, the New York Times unleashed a feature article about the role of the American Bar Association in keeping the cost of legal education absurdly high. The school profiled in that article, which we talked about yesterday, was Duncan Law School, which was seeking provisional accreditation from the ABA.
The article, by legal academia bête noire David Segal, came out in print on Sunday. Everybody talked about it on Monday. And today, on Tuesday, the ABA denied Duncan its provisional accreditation.
That’ll teach these law schools to get chatty with the mainstream media about this little legal education cartel they have going here…
I’m really enjoying the newfound interest from the New York Times about the state of legal education. Times reporter David Segal seems genuinely interested in recording the growing tragedy of American law schools.
Concern from mainstream media is great, but the proposed solutions are a little bit scary. Last month, Segal Slate explored the possibility of paying people to not go to law school.
As we mentioned in Morning Docket, Segal is at it again. This time, he’s questioning the American Bar Association’s role in keeping the cost of legal education so high. Unfortunately, the solution seems to be letting everybody who wants to open a law school do so.
Is it worth pushing down the price of legal education by offering really crappy legal education?
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The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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