ISBA opposes rule that would allow non-ABA accredited law school grads to take bar exam

IL file photo

The Indiana State Bar Association is opposing proposed rule changes that would allow graduates of certain non-American Bar Association accredited law schools to sit for the Indiana bar exam.

In a Monday letter to the Indiana Supreme Court, the ISBA said it received feedback from members, the majority of whom were “overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed rule amendments for a variety of reasons.” Thus, the Board of Governors on Friday “voted unanimously … to oppose the proposed amendments.”

“The best way to ensure quality and consistent legal education is through a reliable accreditation process,” the letter states. “Indiana has no such independent process, nor does it have a body that evaluates the standards of non-ABA accreditation entities. Without confirming that all such entities’ standards align with what we in Indiana consider crucial to providing a high quality legal education and that all such entities have a robust procedure for monitoring accreditation compliance, we do not support allowing graduates of law schools accredited by those other entities to sit for the Indiana bar.”

The letter is signed by ISBA President Amy Noe Dudas.

The rule was proposed by Purdue University. The changes would apply to Rules 6, 13 and 17.1 of the Indiana Rules for Admission to the Bar and the Discipline of Attorneys.

Under the proposal, the law school must be accredited by one or more state, regional or national bodies that specifically accredit law schools. The school must also be operated by or affiliated with an Indiana-based educational institution whose legal education program/degree has been approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

In the letter, the ISBA said it isn’t inherently opposed to online legal education and that its position isn’t a direct evaluation of Purdue Global’s Concord Law School. The ISBA recognized Indiana’s attorney shortage — something Purdue cited in its proposal — and the benefits of online legal education.

In a statement, Martin Pritikin, dean and vice president of the Concord Law School, responded to the bar association’s acknowledgement that Indiana has an attorney shortage.

“But it not only concludes that ensuring quality legal education trumps those concerns; it also assumes that only the ABA can ensure such quality,” Pritikin said. “However, the ABA’s standards for accreditation contain requirements like a physical campus — including a physical law library — that drive up costs and restrict access without promoting quality.”

Pritikin also responded to the bar association’s statement that it will continue to insist on ABA accreditation unless Indiana puts resources in place to become an independent accreditor, or unless the state creates a body to evaluate the standards of other states.

As part of the review process, Pritikin said a working group evaluated the accreditation standards of California, which accredits Concord.

“A substantive review of California’s accreditation standards shows that it contains many if not most of the same requirements as the ABA standards,” he said.

The deadline to submit feedback to the Indiana Supreme Court on the proposed changes is noon ET Friday.

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