What To Know About Unaccredited Law Schools
The ABA has a set of compliance standards to accredit law schools.
Roughly 200 law schools hold ABA-accreditation and must adhere to ABA standards such as having 75% of grads who sit for the bar exam pass within two years. Generally, applicants will apply to law schools that are ABA-accredited as they have been vetted by the association and must uphold certain admission and performance standards.
But what about non-accredited law schools? Gabriel Kuris, founder of Top Law Coach and a contributor at US News, recently dug into both the pros and cons surrounding unaccredited law schools and what applicants should know about them.
One of the biggest benefits of applying to an unaccredited law school is that they tend to be less competitive than ABA-accredited law schools.
Benefits like less competitive admissions may be attractive to certain applicants.
“Applicants who wish to put the LSAT behind them or avoid taking the test at all may appreciate the chance to study law without jumping through hoops,” Kuris writes. “Some unaccredited schools have a religious bent or unconventional pedagogy that may appeal to like-minded applicants.”
Another pro that unaccredited law schools have is that they tend to offer lower cost options and more convenience when compared to accredited law schools.
“Many unaccredited law schools offer flexible, part-time and online options that appeal to older applicants working full time,” Kuris writes.
While less competitive admissions and lower cost are certainly attractive benefits, Kuris warns that unaccredited law schools do have major cons as well.
For one, according to Kuris, unaccredited law schools tend to yield weak job prospects for grads due to low bar passage rates.
“Their overall rates of bar passage and postgraduate employment are significantly lower than for their peers from low-ranked but accredited law schools,” Kuris writes. “Only 50.1% of test takers passed the July 2019 bar exam in California, including only 14.4% of graduates of unaccredited California law schools.”
At the end of the day, where you choose to attend law school is a personal choice that is dependent on your goals, current situation, and finances.
It’s also important to note that many grads of unaccredited law schools who do pass the bar exam can succeed in the law field.
“And once in practice, their legal education may fade from relevance,” Kuris writes. “Many states even allow lawyers who passed the California bar and have practiced for a certain number of years – typically three to 10, depending on the state – to take their bar exam regardless of their education.”
As with every decision, one must weigh both pros and cons. And when it comes to unaccredited law schools, low cost and less competitive admissions comes with some evident cons as well.
“The fact that many such schools are for-profit, along with some accredited ones, is reason enough for concern,” Kuris writes. “Rather than attend an unaccredited law school, most applicants would be better off gaining entry to an ABA-approved school by raising their LSAT score or improving their application profile in other ways.”