Somebody has to accredit law schools, and that job has long fallen to the American Bar Association. It makes sense, on the one hand, to put the job in the hands of an organization that was once the guardian of professional competency. It doesn’t make sense, on the other hand, to leave something as important as accrediting the humongous business of law schools to an organization held captive by the nice folks whose paycheck is signed by the schools they’re judging.
And for a long time, nobody gave it a second thought. They are now.
The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) soon will pass its decision back to the U.S. Department of Education, which last week recommendedshutting down ACICS and will have 90 days to decide the accreditor’s fate. An appeal by the accreditor and lawsuits could follow.
Most notably, the panel on Wednesday rebuked the American Bar Association, in part for its lack of attention to student achievement.
Ah yes, students. The poor schmucks who are tolerated because they take out the loans to hand over to the schools, which in turn uses the loot to pay law profs to write law review articles that no one reads. Seems legit.
The panel said the ABA had failed to implement its student achievement standards and probationary sanctions, while also falling short on its audit process and analysis of graduates’ debt levels.
What this means, exactly, isn’t clear, but it seems to say that they’re taking in an awful lot of money while their students are failing miserably. Like that Ajax Refrigerator Repair school you find on the back of a matchbook,* except that there are jobs for refrigerator repair.
Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education, said the finding followed a department staff report that listed minor technical deficiencies with the association’s accrediting process.
And as anticipated, these problems are deemed “minor technical deficiences,” because it’s not like a lawprof’s paycheck bounced. That would be serious, bordering on intolerable. It’s not like the ABA has no standards at all.
There are currently more than 200 law schools in the United States with varying degrees of accreditation from the American Bar Association (200 fully accredited law schools, and 3 provisionally accredited law schools). Since the law school crisis began sometime between 2007 and 2008 — with tens of thousands of deeply indebted recent law school graduates unable to secure full-time, long-term employment as lawyers — the ABA has granted accreditation to 12 additional law schools and/or merged law schools.
Accrediting 12 more law schools, even as the 200 in existence are churning out grads who have no place to go, might be considered a less than wise move. But they’re still lawyers, right? I mean, they may not have jobs, but they can hang out a shingle, practice law, become a member of the guild, amirite?
Well, there’s one itty, bitty thing these grads still need to do before they get to don the official uniform of privilege. They have to pass the bar exam. And, well, an awful lot can’t. The February, 2016 New York bar exam has a total pass rate of 41%. And this isn’t exactly a one-off problem, but something that’s been coming down the pike for a while now.
To put this in a bit of context, after three years of law schools, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and blood, sweat and beers, law schools send 59% of their students out into the world who can’t pass the bar. Now, one can complain about the bar exam as a measure of competency, but the fact is that it’s just not all that hard to pass, which explains why so many blithering idiots wear pinstriped suits to work. And if you’re not capable of passing the bar after three years of law school, somebody really, really blew it.
How could the situation have gotten so bad? Did the ABA just become so complacent that nobody could bother noticing that the law schools it accredited were failing miserably? Was it so deeply concerned about the welfare of academics that it thought nobody would notice it was accrediting new law schools in the face of a glut of unemployed lawyers?
Or has the ABA, a captive of academics and official lawyers who are overwhelmed with their important professional committee assignments and the potential to use them to create a diverse Utopia, forgotten that when it comes to law schools, they still have to give a damn about, you know, students? I mean, beyond their ability to get non-dischargeable loans?
Somebody has to accredit law schools. I surely don’t want the job. But the ABA has proven that it really sucks at it, and can’t be trusted to put the interests of students and the profession ahead of the pocketbooks of academics and the feelz of progressives. Who should be doing this is unclear, but it certainly isn’t the ABA. Now that I think about it, there really isn’t much of anything the ABA does well. Except maybe give me funny things to write about. Well, maybe not so funny, if you happen to be one of those kids who cashed out their future to go to an ABA accredited law school.
*Archaic reference. Not important enough to google.