Complaints Alleging Non-Compliance with the Standards
Rule 37-43 of the ABA Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools governs the filing of complaints against law schools. The complaint process is designed to bring to the attention of the Council any facts and allegations that may indicate that an approved law school is operating its program of legal education out of compliance with the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools. This process is not available to serve as a mediating or dispute-resolving process for a person with complaints about the policies or actions of an approved law school. The 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. The outcome of this process will not be the ordering of any individual relief for any person or requiring specific action by a law school with respect to any individual.
A complaint must meet the following requirements:
(1) Except in extraordinary circumstances, the complaint must be filed within one calendar year of the facts on which the allegation is based. Pursuit of other remedies does not toll this one calendar year limit.
(2) Complaints must be in writing using the "Complaint Against an ABA-Approved Law School" form and must be signed. The form can be downloaded here: Complaint Form.
(3) As outlined in the Complaint Form, the complaint must include the following information:
(i) A clear and concise description of the nature of the complaint and any evidence upon which the allegation is based, with relevant supporting documentation. The description and supporting evidence should include relevant facts that support the allegation that the law school is out of compliance with the Standards referenced in the complaint.
(ii) The section(s) of the Standards alleged to have been violated and the time frame in which the lack of compliance is alleged to have occurred.
(iii) A description of the steps taken to exhaust the law school's grievance process and the actions taken by the law school in response to the complaint as a result of prescribed procedures.
(iv) Disclosure of any other channels the complainant is pursuing, including legal action.
(v) A release authorizing the Office of the Managing Director to send a copy of the complaint to the dean of the law school.
Process upon receipt of a complaint
The Managing Director or designee shall determine whether the complaint alleges facts that raise issues relating to an approved law school’s compliance with the Standards. This determination shall be made within six weeks of receiving the complaint. The Managing Director or designee may request additional information from the complainant if appropriate. If the Managing Director or designee concludes that the complaint does not raise issues relating to an approved law school’s compliance with the Standards, the matter will be closed.
If a law school that is the subject of a complaint is due to receive a regularly scheduled sabbatical site visit within a reasonable amount of time after the complaint is received, usually within one year, the complaint may be handled as part of the sabbatical site visit.
If the Managing Director or designee determines that the complaint may raise possible compliance issues, the complaint shall be sent to the law school and a response requested. The Managing Director or designee ordinarily will request the dean of the law school to respond within 30 days.
If the response establishes that the law school is not out of compliance with respect to the matters raised in the complaint, the Managing Director or designee will close the matter.
If the law school’s response does not establish that it is operating in compliance with the Standards on the matters raised by the complaint, the Managing Director or designee, in consultation with the Chair of the Council, may appoint a fact-finder to visit the law school to investigate the issues raised by the complaint and the law school’s response. The complaint, the law school's response, and fact-finder’s report, if any, shall be referred to the Council for further action in accordance with the Rules.
The person making the complaint will be notified promptly regarding the conclusion of the matter. The person filing the complaint will not be provided with a copy of the law school’s response, if any, and will not receive any further report on the matter.
There is no appeal to any body of a conclusion by the Managing Director or designee that a complaint does not raise issues under the Standards.
Complaints should be sent to:
Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar
American Bar Association
321 N. Clark Street, 19th floor
Chicago, IL 60654
Learn more about the Accreditation Process or the Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools