Bar Association Nixes Foreign School Accreditation

Bar Association Nixes Foreign School Accreditation

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ABA turns down accrediting request from a Chinese school.

Educational accreditation is essential for colleges and universities, and is a way for an external body to assess a program to determine whether it meets generally accepted quality standards. Meet the body’s accreditation standards and your educational institution will attract top faculty and students that feel confident your program delivers what it promises.

Foreign Schools

Accreditation is no slam dunk and some external bodies are loath to accredit foreign schools. The American Bar Association is one such body that won’t give its approval to non-U.S. schools, turning down the Peking University School of Transnational Law, a Chinese institution that had been seeking ABA accreditation since 2008.

Last Friday, the ABA’s Council of Legal Education and Admissions ruled that it would not accredit foreign law schools. The Chinese institution has been following an American educational model in a bid to win accreditation, but the committee decided against approving foreign schools in an effort to protect U.S. law students. The National Law Journal reported that pressure from “…law students fearful of additional competition for scarce law jobs,” led to the ABA withholding accreditation. Initially, one committee gave serious consideration to accrediting foreign schools, but a second committee considered the needs of current law students and denied accreditation.

First Degrees

The Chinese law school graduated its first students this year, issuing degrees to 53 students for a program based on American J.D. degree standards reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. The school has not yet issued a comment about the ABA’s decision. Without accreditation, its graduates won’t be able to seek employment with U.S. law firms.

Career Difficulties

It may be just as well that the ABA turned down the Chinese school. A recent report in The Oregonian noted that fewer than half of 2011’s law school graduates have been able to find work as lawyers, with salaries coming in at 17 percent lower than in 2010. That report also noted that law firms are downsizing and some have gone bankrupt. Across the board cuts show that the industry is contracting and those cut backs may not be complete.

With more graduates finding it difficult obtaining work, the pool of legal students may already be too big for market conditions. And, many of today’s graduates are deeply in debt, with the class of 2012 expected to begin paying back their student loans this November. The average debt for law school graduates is now $125,000, with some schools producing grads with debt above $150,000. These grads may be finding work elsewhere, but as for the legal profession, jobs opportunities remain scarce.

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Categories: Campus News