Law School’s Accreditation Yanked, Attorneys Say ABA Justified

The American Bar Association has yanked the accreditation of Arizona Summit Law School, the first time it has taken such action against a fully qualified program, and attorneys familiar with the process said the move was justified.

Arizona Summit “has continuously done more harm than good” and deserved to lose its accreditation, Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, which provides information and analysis on legal education issues, told Bloomberg Law.

David Frakt, an attorney and blogger whose practice includes higher education, said the school “has been exploiting unqualified students, especially minority students, for the past several years, leaving hundreds of students with no job, no bar license and crippling debt.”

Arizona Summit plans to appeal the decision, Donald E. Lively, the school’s president, told Bloomberg Law in an email.

The school has had “one of the nation’s most dramatic rises” in Law School Admission Test scores and has “maintained compliance with the ultimate bar pass standard—which we believe is the most relevant metric for schools like ours,” Lively said.

“The full impact of these changes takes at least two years, so it is sad and perhaps vindictive if we are not afforded that time,” he said.

Embroiled in Litigation

The ABA’s move, outlined in a memo June 8, came as the association was already embroiled in litigation with the school’s parent, Infilaw, over accreditation standards at a handful of for-profit law schools.

Arizona Summit, defunct Charlotte School of Law, and Florida Coastal School of Law sued ABA, alleging that its accreditation practices are arbitrary and violated due process. The association has defended its practices.

Charlotte had its accreditation withdrawn in February after it closed its doors.

The Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association actually determined in May to withdraw Arizona Summit’s certification for “continuing non-compliance” with standards.

Its average bar passage rate for first time takers in 2016 was 34 percent and in 2017, 27 percent, according to the ABA. The average state bar passage rate was 65 percent in 2016 and 67 percent in 2017.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com