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1. Why is the law school being evaluated at this time?
The law school is fully accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Each fully accredited law school is evaluated by the ABA every seven years. The law school's last site visit was in 2007, and its current site visit is scheduled for March 2014.
2. What is the law school's accrediting agency?
Beginning in 1921, the ABA adopted standards for the provision of legal education. The ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is the national accrediting agency for law schools. Since 1952, the Council has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education as the recognized national agency for the accreditation of programs leading to the first professional degree in law, the juris doctorate or J.D. degree. As of 2013, a total of 203 law schools were approved by the ABA.
The UND School of Law has been fully accredited by the ABA since 1923.
The law school also is a member of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). The AALS does not have accreditation authority, but reviews member schools to ensure they are complying with the rules of membership. Typically, the AALS conducts its review of member schools at the same time the ABA evaluates law schools for accreditation purposes. Professor Lynn Foster, a Site Visit Team member, also will serve as the AALS Reporter.
The UND School of Law has been a member of the AALS since 1911.
3. What is the purpose of accreditation?
Each state's highest court determines the qualifications for members of the bar in that state. Typically, states, including North Dakota, require education at an ABA-approved law school.
4. What is the process for accreditation?
A new law school must apply for provisional accreditation. Once that is achieved, the law school must apply for full accreditation. Once a law school has been fully accredited for three years, it is evaluated every seven years to ensure that it continues to comply with the ABA standards for accreditation.
During the evaluation year, the law school must complete a site evaluation questionnaire and a self-study. These documents contain detailed information on, for example, the number and qualifications of applicants, course offerings, current faculty and staff, physical space, budget and funding, and library resources. The law school also receives a site visit from a site evaluation team.
5. What will the site visit include?
The UND School of Law's site visit is scheduled for March 2014. The site visit lasts approximately three days, usually Sunday through Wednesday or Wednesday through Saturday. The site visit is conducted by a team, led by a designated chair. The team conducts interviews and meetings with faculty, staff, students, and law school and university administrators. The team also sits in on classes and conducts a thorough gathering and review of data and documents pertaining to the law school and its operations.
6. What is the role of the site visit team?
The site visit team serves a fact-finding function. That is, the team does not make any determinations about whether the law school is meeting the ABA Standards; instead, the team merely gathers data and documentation that are relevant to assessing whether the law school is meeting the ABA Standards. The ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, through its Accreditation Committee, will determine whether the law school is in compliance with the standards.
7. What standards will the law school be measured by?
The ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools. These standards cover aspects of the law school's organization and administration, program of legal education, faculty, admissions and student services, library and information resources, and facilities.
8. What are the possible outcomes of the evaluation process?
The evaluation process results in an "action letter" reporting on the law school's compliance with the ABA standards. For any of the standards, the action letter could find that (1) the law school is in compliance, (2) although the law school is not in violation of the standard, there are concerns meriting the school's attention, (3) there is reason to believe that the law school is in noncompliance, or (4) there is insufficient information to make a determination on the law school's compliance. For any instance of noncompliance, the action letter typically will ask for a report in one year on the steps that the law school has taken to come into compliance with the standard.
9. When will the law school know the results of the evaluation?
The UND School of Law's site visit will occur in March 2014. After the site visit, the team members compile a written factual report. The report is reviewed by the ABA's Managing Director's office. The report then is forwarded to the law school. The law school has a set amount of time to submit corrections or comments to the report. The report and the law school's response, if any, then are forwarded to the ABA's Accreditation Committee. The Accreditation Committee will consider the site visit questionnaire, Self Study, site visit report, and other materials and information to determine whether the law school meets the ABA standards. The Committee's decision will be transmitted to the law school in the action letter. This process typically takes several months to complete. If the action letter includes any finding of apparent noncompliance, the law school typically is given one year to take steps to achieve compliance. If the law school is not in compliance and has not taken satisfactory steps at the end of the year, the Accreditation Committee will consider remedial action. Thus, the ABA's final decision on accreditation may not occur for more than a year after the site visit is conducted.
10. Does the UND School of Law expect to retain its ABA approval?
Yes. Every law school has its challenges, some unique, some shared by many other schools across the country. We have successfully addressed the concerns raised by the ABA in the 2007 re-accreditation process—or, in the case of the School of Law's building project, are in the process of addressing the concerns. The seven-year evaluation process is a chance for the law school to assess its own achievements and how it has met challenges during the last seven years, as well as its goals and anticipated challenges for the future. Additionally, the ABA Standards themselves have changed since 2007, requiring law schools to adapt to new requirements. The evaluation process also assists us, through the experience and expertise of the ABA, in providing the best possible legal education to our students while contributing to the scholarship of law and serving the profession and our community, state, and nation.