University of La Verne President Devorah Lieberman announced Monday that the College of Law will abort its efforts to maintain American Bar Association accreditation, and instead transition to a California Bar Association law school in fall 2020.
University-wide budgetary concerns, and increasingly stringent ABA standards prompted the Board of Trustees last month to put together an ad-hoc financial exigency committee including faculty and administrators to consider the struggling law school’s future, and whether to shut it down entirely.
The board abided by the guidelines in the Faculty Handbook for considering program discontinuance, which required a committee elected by the Faculty Senate to prepare a report of recommendations to the board regarding the financial exigency of the College of Law.
“The University of La Verne Law program was accredited by the California State Bar prior to obtaining ABA accreditation,” Lieberman said Monday in an emailed statement to faculty and staff. “During that time, the program was very successful and it produced excellent lawyers to serve the region. As it did then, the newly-proposed California State Bar accredited program will continue to serve students and the legal needs of our community, be financially sustainable, and increase access to a legal education.”
The announcement left students and faculty alike concerned.
Diane Klein, professor of law and member of the exigency committee, said the currently enrolled law students who wish to continue and graduate from the University of La Verne College of Law school as an ABA accredited law school will be able to do so.
This process of phasing out those students enrolled in the ABA program will last until June 2022, Klein said.
Prospective students will begin enrolling into a California Bar accredited program in fall 2020.
“People are concerned and somewhat confused,” Klein said. “I think there is a community feeling that we will come together and soldier on. The faculty are committed to every student in the building and every student who ever comes through our program, and no administrative decision will change that.”
Klein said from the time the College of Law was made aware that the Board of Trustees called on University administration and faculty to examine the American Bar Association-accredited law program and determine its future, there has been effective communication and engagement from both sides.
“We hope many students will still consider us and they will not restrict their search to the ABA accredited schools but will look at schools that are local to them,” Klein said. “Approximately 95% of our students have taken the Cal Bar exam and they can still do that. Virtually all the opportunities they still wish to pursue, they can pursue with a Cal Bar degree.”
Klein said this accreditation will not alter the education future law students who wish to attend the program will receive.
If you graduate from an ABA-accredited law school, students are eligible to immediately take the bar exam in any state. If you graduate from a California Bar accredited law school, you will be eligible to sit for the California Bar Exam. Maintaining an ABA-accreditation is more expensive than maintaining a California Bar accreditation.
Klein said the broader University community could benefit by more interactions between Board members and faculty members on all issues pertaining to the University.
“The tenured faculty at the College of Law are a part of the larger University of La Verne and we are committed to continuing to play a role to contribute to the mission and values of the University,” Klein said. “We believe and we will continue to do that under this accreditation as we did before.”
College of Law alum Kristopher Crumby just graduated in 2019 and will soon be sworn in as a deputy district attorney at the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
“I just got my Bar results and passed so I will be sworn in as a district attorney in two weeks,” Crumby said. “It meant everything to me to go to an ABA accredited law school.”
Crumby attended a town hall meeting last moth when Provost Jonathan Reed announced the Board of Trustees’ unanimous decision to pass a resolution to consider closing the law school in October.
Crumby expressed his concern that doing so would hinder La Verne’s reputation
“We are the only accredited school in the Inland Empire that serves up to 4 million people who live out here, and who are predominantly minorities,” Crumby said. “It was an honor and privilege to go to school in my community and now be out actively working in my community. Going to an ABA accredited school gave me that opportunity.”
Crumby said he fears that transitioning out of an ABA accredited College of Law, into a California Bar accredited school will put students who attend La Verne at a disadvantage.
“The school not being ABA accredited means students are setting themselves up for a bigger challenge,” Crumby said. “You still face those criticisms and stereotypes that our school is less known and smaller, and now it is not even ABA accredited. You will have to take additional steps in order to reach your goals and dreams.
“I would still support the decision of anyone who chooses to go there just because of the great faculty and staff there,” Crumby said. “You will not regret your decision but it not being accredited is a cause for concern and definitely something anybody who thinks about going there should consider when making their decision.”
Layla Abbas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.