ISBA supporting IN Supreme Court proposal to allow graduates of non-ABA-accredited schools to take Indiana bar

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The Indiana State Bar Association is supporting the Indiana Supreme Court’s proposal to allow graduates of non-American Bar Association-accredited law schools to sit for the Indiana bar. Its support comes after its objection earlier this year to a proposal submitted by Purdue University.

The ISBA sent out a member alert Wednesday announcing that it would support the Supreme Court proposal, which would allow graduates of non-ABA-accredited schools to sit for the Indiana bar in two situations:

  • If the applicant graduated from a non-ABA-accredited law school in the United States, was eligible to sit for the bar in another state, and the Board of Law Examiners finds the applicant is qualified to take the Indiana bar by education or experience.
  • If the applicant completed legal education outside the U.S., obtained a graduate degree in American law from an ABA-approved school, and the BLE finds the applicant is qualified to take the Indiana bar by education or experience.

Those changes are laid out in a proposed amendment to Admission and Discipline Rule 13, Section 4.

“ISBA believes these changes have the potential to increase the availability of proficient lawyers in Indiana while still ensuring a qualified entity vets the candidates petitioning to sit for the exam,” Senior Judge Tom Felts, current ISBA president, wrote to the Supreme Court.

Felts noted that the Purdue proposal — which would have amended Rule 6, Admission on Foreign License, Rule 13, Educational Requirements for Admission to Examination, and Rule 17.1, Admission by Transferred Uniform Bar Examination Score —are different from the current proposal.

In opposing the Purdue proposal, the ISBA wrote in April, “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.”

In contrast, Felts wrote to the Supreme Court, “Although the current proposal doesn’t include a specific provision for Indiana accreditation, the ISBA believes it succeeds in providing a sufficient vetting process. Indiana’s Board of Law Examiners has long been the gatekeeper for minimum competency of Indiana attorneys. Relying on this board to review requests from otherwise qualified law school graduates would be an effective solution to ensuring that candidates are adept in legal practice, helping to maintain a more proficient legal community.”

The Supreme Court’s proposed plan comes amid efforts from Purdue Global Law School — formerly known as Concord Law School — an online-only law school that wants its graduates to be able to sit for the Indiana bar. Right now, Purdue Global Law graduates can only take the bar in California, where the school is based.

Purdue Global Law and other advocates say allowing graduates of non-ABA-accredited schools to take the Indiana bar would help ease the state’s lawyer shortage.

Comments on the Supreme Court proposal are due by noon on Dec. 15. Comments can be submitted online or via U.S. Mail to Proposed Rule Changes, Indiana Office of Court Services, 251 N. Illinois St., Suite 800, Indianapolis, 46204.

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