The law school announced the American Bar Association’s approval of provisional status Monday. This entitles the Fort Wayne school to all the rights of a fully accredited law school and enables its graduates to take the bar exam in any American jurisdiction.
“I’m grateful for the ABA’s work in reviewing our program and all of the support we have received along the way from our students, faculty and staff, Indiana Tec alums and the legal community in Fort Wayne and beyond,” said Dean Charles Cercone. “All of us here at the law school are excited about what the future holds for our program.”
This is the second attempt for Indiana Tech after it failed to gain provisional accreditation in 2015. At that time, the ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar did not publically state why it denied the law school’s application, but Cercone said the main issue was probably the incomplete third-year curriculum.
Since then, the law school revamped its curriculum by focusing on the courses for the final year and placing greater emphasis on legal writing. In addition, the institution increased the number of required courses and improved the procedures for assessing the classes and grading.
Indiana Tech got the first indication the changes had worked when the ABA Council’s Accreditation Committee recommended provisional accreditation in January. After that milestone, Cercone detailed the curriculum upgrades.
He said the school is continuing to emphasize experiential learning along with doctrinal work. In their classes, students are given assignments to draft legal documents such as a motion to dismiss or a buy-sell agreement so when they graduate, Cercone said, the students will have a portfolio of “real-life legal writing” comparable to what would be done by a first- or second-year associate.
The curriculum was highlighted by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller after the school successfully maneuvered the process to get provisional accreditation. Zoeller taught a course on Indiana constitutional law during the fall 2015 semester at Indiana Tech and serves on the law school’s board of advisors.
“Indiana Tech Law School offers an exciting new approach to legal education with its focus on experiential learning and a commitment to ethics,” the attorney general said in a statement. “The hard work of the administrators, professors and students during the ABA review has resulted in reaching this significant milestone which will allow this year’s third-year students, who graduate in May, to sit for the bar exam after graduation.”
In August 2015, the Indiana Supreme Court opened a door for Indiana Tech law students while the school was starting the accreditation process again. The Supreme Court issued an order that created an exception that enabled the third-year class members to apply for the Indiana Bar Exam even if provisional approval had not been granted.
In January, Cercone acknowledged having a majority of the Class of 2016 pass the bar was essential not only for their employment but also for the school’s reputation and ability to secure full accreditation. Indiana Tech must obtain full accredited status no later than 2021. A law school seeking accreditation must demonstrate it is in substantial compliance with all of the ABA standards for the Approval of Law Schools.
To help its students, the law school has bolstered its academic support and career placement offices. Also, it is partnering with BARBRI Bar Review, a commercial bar preparation course, to aid graduating students get ready for the bar exam.
“Everyone at Indiana Tech appreciates the hard work that our students, faculty, staff and Dean Cercone have done in building our law school,” Indiana Tech President Arthur Snyder said after provisional accreditation was granted. “It’s gratifying the ABA sees the quality and value of our work to date in creating a truly innovative and effective program of legal education.”