Day: 2013/02/01

Accreditation Is Not Foundation

In “Crop of New Law Schools Opens Amid a Lawyer Glut” Jennifer Smith of The Wall Street Journal writes:

During the law-school boom between 1950 and 1970, about 20 schools per decade got accredited by the American Bar Association. In the 1980s and 1990s, that pace dropped back to eight per decade.

There’s been a resurgence this century, with 19 new schools getting ABA’s stamp of approval since 2000, and more on deck.

This statement stuck out to me because the accreditation rate isn’t the best indicator of law school over-expansion. Previous research I’ve done shows that the big ABA surge was in the 1970s because most of the law schools accredited before then already existed and merely fell into the ABA’s orbit. There are two reasons for this: (a) state judiciaries tightened lawyer-licensing rules, and (b) the Higher Education Act made it more lucrative to do so. Behold:

Law School Foundation & Accreditation

The chart excludes all schools that have never received ABA accreditation. It’s clear, though, that the ’50s were a period of consolidation, not expansion. The period following the Higher Education Act is when the massive building occurred.

I should add that the 1970s expansion coincided with significant growth in the legal sector:

Legal Sector–Ppl Eng'd per 10k, FTE Emps per 10k

André D.P. Cummings, associate dean for academic affairs at Indiana Tech’s new law school, said plans to enroll 100 students in the fall class may have to be scaled back. “Are we where we’d like to be?” he said. “Not yet. The truth is that applications are down significantly across the country.

I humbly ask you to recall Indiana Tech’s specious arguments for opening its law school. Don’t hold your breath for the day we have to import foreign lawyers to cure Indiana’s attorney shortage.