Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools
The online Official Guide allows you to download Standard 509 Information and Employment Summary data charts for each ABA-approved law school. The Guide also contains links to other legal education statistics and resources.
How does the accreditation process work?
A law school may not apply for provisional approval until it has been in operation for one year. Schools considering applying for provisional approval are strongly encouraged to contact the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar as early as possible, and well before the year in which the school applies for provisional approval. Once a school has obtained provisional approval, it remains in provisional status for at least three years. After a school is granted full approval, it undergoes a full site evaluation in the third year after full approval, and then a full sabbatical site evaluation every seven years. Once a school is granted full ABA-approval, it remains on the list of approved law schools until it is removed by a desicion of the Council or it closes.
Click here to learn more about the ABA Accreditation Process.
Click here for a list of ABA-approved law schools and the years in which they were approved.
APPROVAL OF LAW SCHOOLS
What is ABA approval of law schools?
Since 1952, the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association has been recognized by the United States Department of Education as the national agency for the accreditation of programs leading to the J.D. degree in the United States.
Law schools that are ABA-approved provide a legal education that meets a minimum set of standards promulgated by the Council and Accreditation Committee of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Every U.S. jurisdiction has determined that graduates of ABA-approved law schools are eligible to sit for the bar exam in their respective jurisdiction.
What is the difference between attending an ABA-approved law school and a non-ABA approved law school?
The ABA Standards for the Approval of Law Schools assure that students who attend ABA-approved law schools will receive a sound program of legal education. Schools not approved by the ABA need not comply with these Standards and the ABA can make no representation about the quality of the program of legal education offered at non-approved law schools.
All states recognize that graduation from an ABA-approved law school satisfies the legal education requirements that a person must meet to be eligible to sit for the bar examination. In many states, a person may not sit for the bar examination unless that person holds a J.D. degree from an ABA-approved law school. Other states have additional requirements that a student must meet in order to qualify to sit for that state's examination, including allowing some graduates of non-ABA approved law schools to sit for that state's bar examination.
The criteria for eligibility to take the bar examination or to otherwise qualify for bar admission are set by each state, not by the ABA or the Council. Students and applicants to law schools should always check with the bar admissions authority in their state concerning their eligibility to take the bar exam. Information on each state's rules about the legal education that students must obtain in order to sit for that state's bar exam and a directory of state bar admission agencies can be found in the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements.
What is the status of students who attend or graduate from a law school that is not ABA approved?
Most states recognize ABA-approval as a qualification to sit for the bar. Graduates of non-ABA-approved schools should check the requirements of the state in which they plan to apply for admissions in the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions Requirements.
What is the status of students who attend or graduate from a law school that is provisionally approved?
Individuals who graduate from provisionally approved school are considered by the ABA to be students attending an ABA-approved law school. Most states follow this policy. However, students should always check individual state requirements concerning their ability to take the bar exam.
ABA STANDARDS AND RULES OF PROCEDURE FOR APPROVAL OF LAW SCHOOLS
What are the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools?
The Standards contain the requirements that a law school must meet to obtain and retain ABA approval. Interpretations that follow the Standards provide additional guidance concerning the implementation of a particular Standard and have the same force and effect as a Standard.
What are the ABA Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools?
The Rules of Procedure govern the accreditation process through which decisions concerning the status of individual schools are made. The Rules also contain provisions related to the operation of the Office of the Managing Director of Accreditation and Legal Education.
ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools
What happens if I am dismissed from a law school for academic reasons?
Standard 303: Academic Standards and Achievements states that a law school shall have clearly definied standards for good standing and graduation.
Standard 501(C): Admissions addresses the instance under which a student who has been dismissed for academic reasons may be readmitted or admitted to another school.
The Section's Council will not intervene with an approved law school on behalf of an individual with a complaint against or concern regarding action taken by a law school that adversely affects that individual.
Rules 42-48 of the ABA Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools governs the filing of complaints against law schools. For more information about this process, visit the Section's page on Complaints Alleging Non-Compliance with the Standards.
ADMISSION TO THE BAR
The criteria for eligibility to take the bar examination or to otherwise qualify for bar admission are set by each state, not by the ABA or the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Students and applicants to law schools should always check with the bar admissions authority in their state concdrning their eligibility to take the bar exam. Information on each state's rules about the legal education that students must obtain in order to sit for that state's bar exam and a directory of state bar admission agencies can be found in the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements.
ADMISSIONS TO LAW SCHOOL
What can I do if a school does not admit me because of my grades or my LSAT score?
Standards 501-503 address minimum requirements for admission. Law schools set their own admission standards, which may exceed the requirements of the Standards. The Council does not review law school admission decisions. Students should work directly with the law school to resolve admissions matters.
APPLICANTS FROM FOREIGN LAW SCHOOLS
Standard 505c addresses the requirements for admitting foreign law school applicants to U.S. law Schools. Foreign applicants should also refer to Chart 4: Eligibility to Take the Bar Examination in the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements and contact the state board of examiners in the state(s) in which they wish to sit for the bar exam. A directory of state bar admission agencies can be found in the Comprehensive Guide.
The numbers and percentages of students who leave a law school before graduation can be found in the JD Attrition category on each law school Standard 509 Information chart in the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.
CHARACTER AND FITNESS DETERMINATION
Standard 504 sets out a law school's responsibility to assess an applicant's character and fitness qualifications and to advise applicants that such qualifications exist for admittance to the school and for admission to the bar. Students should refer to Chart 2 of the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements for the character and fitness determinations in the state(s) in which they plan to sit for the bar examination.
Rules 42-48 of the ABA Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools governs the filing of complaints against law schools. The Section's Council will not intervene with an approved law school on behalf of an individual with a complaint against or concern regarding action taken by a law school that adversely affects that individual. For more information on the complaint process, visit the Section's page on Complaints Alleging Non-Compliance with the Standards.
No law schools that provide a J.D. degree completely via correspondence study are ABA-approved. Standard 306 outlines the instances in which online courses may be counted for credit toward the J.D. degree. Earning a J.D. degree completely via correspondence study may drastically limit an individuals ability to sit for the bar exam in many states. Contact the state board of examiners in the state(s) in which you are interested in being admitted to ascertain what limitations, if any, correspondence study will have on your ability to sit for the bar exam. Chart 3 of the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements addresses the Permitted Means of Legal Study.
For more information, visit the Section's Distance Education page.Except as provided in Standard 505 (Granting of J.D. Degree Credit for Prior Law Study) no credit can be given for toward a J.D. degree for coursework taken before a student has matriculated as a J.D student in an ABA-approved law school. [See Standard 311(e)]
GRANTING CREDIT FOR PRIOR LAW STUDY
Under Standard 505, credit may be given toward a J.D. degree for courses taken at another ABA-approved law school, at a state approved law school, or at a law school outside the United States. Credit hours for courses taken at a state approved law school or at a law school outside the United States are limited to one-third of the total credits required for graduation by the admitting law school. A student who is given credit for prior law study must also successfully complete all of the requirements for graduation at the admitting law school.
The Standards act only as a minimum guideline to schools’ policies. It is not only possible but probable that the school you wish to receive your degree from may have additional restrictions.
ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools
Standard 308 states that a law school may not establish a degree program other than its J.D. program without obtaining the Council's prior acquiescence. Additionally, a law school may not establish a degree program in addition to its J.D. program unless the school is fully approved.
ABA accreditation does not extend to any program supporting degrees other than the J.D. that may be granted by the law school. Rather, the content and requreiments of those degrees, such as an LL.M., are created by the law school itself and do not reflect any judgment by the ABA accrediting bodies regarding the quality of the program. Moreover, admission requirements for such programs, particularly with regard to foreign students, vary from school to school, and are not evaluated through the ABA accreditation process.
The Accreditation Committee and Council review post-J.D. degree programs only to determine whether the offering os such post-J.D. programs would have an adverse impact on the law school's ability to maintain its accreditation for the J.D. program. If no adverse impact in indicated, the Council "aquiesces" in the law school's decision to offer the non-J.D. program and degree.
LLM/Non-JD/Post-JD FAQs for Law Schools
LIST OF POST-J.D. AND NON-J.D PROGRAMS
A list of post-J.D. and non-J.D. programs that have received Council acquiescence can be found on the Section's Web site.
RANKING OF LAW SCHOOLS
No ranking or rating of law schools beyond the simple statement of their accreditation status is attempted or advocated by the official organizations in legal education. The American Bar Association and its Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar have issued disclaimers of any law school ranking system. Prospective law students should consider a variety of factors in making their choice among schools:Evaluating Law Schools
Standard 304(f), which restricted student employment to 20 hours per week, was eliminated in 2014. ABA-approved law schools may continue to retain a student employment rule even though it is no longer required by the Standards.