Policies contrived to richly reward law school deans and professors have been foisted on law schools at the expense of their students by the accreditors of the American Bar Association(ABA), which holds the power of accreditation over nearly all of the nation’s 200 law schools, a new book charges.
“Because of accreditation policies designed to ensure continued and increasing economic and professional benefits for professors and deans…the common man either will not gain admission to law school in the first place, or will be saddled with so much debt (upon graduation) that a good chunk of his future will be a constant struggle,” write co-authors Lawrence Velvel and Kurt Olson in their book “The Gathering Pesants’ Revolt in American Legal Education”(Doukathsan).
In complicity with the Law School Admissions Council(LSAC) and the American Association of Law Schools(AALS), the ABA’s Section of Legal Education make up the “Big Three” of the legal teaching profession, the authors write. And they have “put and kept in place a system to obtain ever more tuition money and professional perquisites for law schools and law faculty, with as little tuition monies as possible going to the ‘undeserving’ university of which the school is but a part,” Velvel and Olson write.
“The three groups (have) coordinated their activities, there was vast and continuing overlap in their leaders, with many of the same persons being leaders in either two or all three of the groups,” Velvel and Olson write. “The Big Three accomplished their mercenary purposes; the losers were students (that paid the bills through their soaring tuition), minorities (that were priced out of attending law schools) and the public” (that wound up paying more for legal services). Velvel and Olson write the Big Three have turned law schools “into institutions that serve only the upper middle class, and the upper class, while knowingly largely keeping out minorities, the lower middle class, the poor, immigrants and people in mid life. They are intent on keeping the legal academy and the legal profession the preserve of the white and the wealthy.”
The ABA’s rules of accreditation, the co-authors charge, “are focused on inputs that aggrandize faculty desires.” These include rules limiting hours of teaching, limiting overall workloads, demanding large, full-time faculties and a requirement that most students’ hours be taught by full-time, tenured professors housed in plush facilities.”
The ABA’s power over law schools, Velvel and Olson write, is derived from rules of State Supreme Courts that usually allow graduates of ABA law schools to take the bar upon graduation while in most states graduates of non-ABA law schools usually are either “never permitted to take the bar or at best, in about 15 or so states, can take the bar only three, five or 10 years after graduation.”
The co-authors go on to say the ABA has persuaded State Supreme courts to say they depend on the ABA as they do not have themselves the ability to judge scores of law schools and no other accrediting agency could do a good job.
The truth, however, is that there are a number of other accrediting bodies that can do a fine job, such as the New England Association of Schools & Colleges, which accredits Massachusetts School of Law. If State Supreme Courts would allow regional or a new national accrediting group to compete with the ABA---groups whose imprimaturs would allow graduates of schools they accredit to sit for the bar examination---“the situation would change dramatically,” the co-authors write.
“Schools that serve minorities and the poor would be allowed to exist, and their graduates would be allowed to take bar exams.” Meanwhile, the current restraint of trade resulting from ABA’s near monopoly totally eliminates, in most states, the flow of students into law schools that the ABA does not accredit because they do not follow its high cost, one-size-fits-all model.
Thus, while more and more ABA law school students are saddled with tuitions of $30,000 to $40,000 a year and more, their ABA- school professors often collect salaries of $200,000 to $300,000 a year. Because of law school tuitions that are rising faster than inflation, and the ABA’s demand for use of the biased LSAT, of all practicing attorneys only about four percent are African-American and even fewer are Hispanic-American.
Co-author Velvel is dean and was cofounder in 1988 of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover and co-author Olson is an Assistant Professor of Law there. The school is purposefully dedicated to educating the working class, mid-life people, minorities, and immigrants. Velvel has been honored for his contributions to legal education by the National Law Journal and cited as one of the leaders in law school reform by The National Jurist magazine.
MSL students in national competitions, it should be noted, repeatedly place near the top of all law schools in America. As well, Brian Tamanaha, of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, called recently for “more law schools (that) would look like the Massachusetts School of Law,” explaining, “Schools built around this alternative model would produce capable lawyers at a much lower tuition, which would be good for the students and good for society.”
(Note: Sherwood Ross is a Media Consultant to Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)