Wednesday, March 18, 2009

200 Law Schools? Well, not quite...

Last week we got the 2007-2008 Annual Report of the ABA Legal Education Consultant. (Yes, we JUST got it - why it took that long to get the 07-08 annual report out, and why its not available on the ABA web site, I don’t know). It trumpets “Marking a Milestone: 200 Law Accredited Law Schools”. I must have missed this last summer when it was a news item in legal circles. I track law schools for ALL-SIS survey on Continuing Status and Tenure, and I knew we were getting close to have 200 ABA-approved schools, but I only had 198 schools on my list, including the three new schools that were provisionally approved last year (Drexel, Elon, and Charlotte).

I compared my list with the ABA’s list in the annual report and the first thing I noticed was that the ABA’s 200 schools includes the Army Judge Advocate General School, which I didn’t think the ABA really “approved” as its not a J.D. - granting institution. I may be wrong, but searching the school’s web page, I couldn’t find any mention of the ABA.

The other discrepancy I found between my list and the ABA’s is that they count the two Wideners separately, and I had it only once. I knew the two Rutgers (Camden and Newark) are administratively separate law schools, but I thought Widener was more like Thomas Cooley, which has three campuses but is just one school and is listed as such by the ABA.

Then I checked the ABA/LSAC Official Guide listings. There, Widener seems to occupy a middle ground between Thomas Cooley, which has just one listing, and the two Rutgers, which have separate listings: Widener has separate data pages for each campus, but it has just one “information page”, the page with all the stuff provided by each law school, along with the school’s applicant profile.

Next I looked on the web page for the ABA Legal Ed section and the master list of law schools there:

The two Rutgers are listed separately, but Widener is only listed once, as is Thomas Cooley.

So what’s the determining factor? A single Dean? Separate administrations? What?
Widener only has one Dean for the two campuses, while each Rutgers has its own Dean (well, one dean and a dean search getting underway at Rutgers Newark). There’s also just one web page for Widener, but two for Rutgers.

Then I checked our catalog and grabbed last year’s ABA Legal Education annual report. In the 06-07 report’s master list of approved law schools, the ABA does NOT list Widener as two separate schools. Also, the text of the report (at page 25), gives a brief summary of how many schools there was that year and notes that “[t]wo of the approved law schools, Thomas Cooley and Widener, have branch campuses” and also says “Penn State University operates a second location”. Cooley, both last year and this year, is only listed once by the ABA, but why is Widener now listed twice? I don’t think they changed the way they operate or how they’re organized.

Maybe the ABA legal ed folks were just a little over-eager to pass the “200 law schools” milestone. But even with quibbling about the JAG school and Widener, in another year or two, we’ll definitely have over 200 ABA-approved law schools. The 2006-2007 report noted that two other new schools had applied for provisional approval, though one of them - American Justice School of Law/aka “Alben W. Barkley School of Law” is now closed. And I don’t know much about the “Eugenio Mara de Hostos Law School”, in Puerto Rico, but there are others in the wings working on approval.

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