ABA Approval of Law Schools: Standards, Procedures, and the Future of Legal Education

Graduation from an accredited law school is a requirement for admission to the bar in most states. Although rule-making power with regard to bar admission lies in the state supreme courts, the courts give great deference to the American Bar Association (ABA) as an accreditor of law schools. Admission requirements frequently prescribe unconditionally that an applicant must be a graduate of a law school that has been approved by the ABA. Other states require either graduation from an ABA-approved law school or some specified alternative. The few remaining states require unconditionally or as an alternative that an applicant for the bar be a graduate of an “accredited” or “approved” law school, without designating the ABA as the accrediting body. Some of these states specify an accreditor, such as the bar examining committee; others do not. Nevertheless, they often maintain a policy or a rule that deems a law school to be accredited in the state if it is approved by the ABA.