ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools
Published in partnership with the Law School Admission Council, the Official Guide contains comprehensive information on admission requirements, tuition and expenses, financial aid, curriculum, faculty, career placement, bar passage rates as well as guides to preparing for law school and the law school admissions process. It is available for purchase in hard copy or can be viewed for free online.
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 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 for 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 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 or is provisionally ABA approved?
Individuals who graduate from provisionally approved school are considered by the ABA to be students attending an ABA-approved law school. It does not matter that the school was not approved when the student first enrolled in the school or that the school loses its approval subsequent to an individual's graduation. Most states follow this policy. However, students should always check individual state requirements concerning their ability to take the bar exam.
These matters are covered by Standards 102 and 103 and several of the Interpretations to those Standards.
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 Consultant on 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 505: Previously Disqualified Applicant addresses the instance under which a student who has been dismissed for academic reasons may be readmitted or admitted to another school.
Standard 303: Academic Standards and Achievements states that a law school shall have clearly definied standards for good standing and graduation.
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.
Rule 24b 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 admission requirements. However, the Section 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 507 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 Enrollment category of 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.
Rule 24(d) 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.
DISTANCE EDUCATIONFor more information, visit the Section's Distance Education page.
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.
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.
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. A discussion of those factors can be found in Chapter 5 (Choosing a Law School) of the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools .