Valpo Law gets green light for closure plans

Valparaiso Law School has gained approval from the American Bar Association for its plan to teach the remaining students and award them J.D. degrees before the institution closes in 2020.

The announcement from the ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar does not provide any specifics of the teach-out plan other than to note the law school’s accreditation will continue until Aug. 31, 2020. The law school has not posted anything about the teach-out plan on its website.
Valparaiso University announced in October 2018 it would close its 139-year-old law school. The announcement came several days after the Tennessee Higher Education Commission blocked a plan to transfer the law school to Middle Tennessee State University. The northwest Indiana law school stopped enrolling students in 2018 and will graduate its final class in May 2020.

In its Standard 509 report submitted to the ABA, Valparaiso Law School said it had 24 full-time faculty and 29 part-time faculty during the 2017-2018 academic year. Also, it had a total enrollment of 216 students, with 142 receiving some kind of financial support from the school.

During the 2017-2018 school year, 13 first-year students transferred from Valparaiso. At least seven of those students went to Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, according to the Standard 509 report from the Indianapolis institution.  

The ABA approved Valparaiso’s teach-out plan at the council’s meeting in mid-February. At that same meeting, the council granted full accreditation to Concordia School of Law in Boise, Idaho, and Duncan School of Law at Lincoln Memorial University in Knoxville, Tennessee. Both of these law schools have had troubled paths to ABA approval.

Duncan filed a lawsuit against the ABA after being denied accreditation in December 2011, according to the Knoxville News. The law school eventually dropped the lawsuit, made changes to its administration and gained provisional accreditation in 2014. Four years later in April 2018, the ABA found the school out of compliance, but by November 2018, the law school was returned to provisional status.

Concordia had its provisional accreditation delayed while the ABA did further review in 2014.

In addition, the ABA council announced in February that Florida Coastal School of Law, and its owner, InfiLaw, dismissed their lawsuit against the association and the council. The lawsuit was filed after the ABA notified the law school it was out of compliance with admissions standards, according to the Jacksonville Daily Record.

The ABA announced the dismissal of lawsuits from Arizona Summit Law School, another InfiLaw institution, in January 2019, and from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley School of Law in November 2018.

Valparaiso had accreditation troubles in 2016 when the ABA publicly censured the law school for admitting students who did not appear to have the ability to complete the J.D. program and pass the bar exam. That same year, the law school was forced to downsize it faculty by 13 and was the subject of a New York Times investigation, detailing how Valparaiso graduates were struggling paying off their student loan debt, passing the bar and finding jobs as lawyers.

Although the ABA lifted the censure in November 2017, the good news was quickly dampened by the university’s announcement it would not be admitting new students in the fall of 2018.  

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