ABA Won’t Extend Accreditation to Law Schools Overseas

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According to this article, the ABA has decided against extending accreditation to law schools outside of the United States. It seems the idea behind such accreditation was to make it easier for certain foreign lawyers to get certified to practice in the U.S.

While this certainly seems like a noble (if fairly narrow) end, American law students didn’t quite see things that way. In an ever-tightening job market, law students viewed foreign-educated lawyers as yet more competition for scarce positions. Among the other reasons that the ABA cited for denial of foreign accreditation were cost and difficulty of administration.

Looking at this situation with a casual observer’s eye, it seems as though there was another possible factor in the ABA’s decision. Money. Whose money you ask? That of the American law schools who help line the ABA’s coffers. If the ABA begins accrediting foreign law schools, one could imagine the unsavory consequence for existing ABA schools. Foreign students, who may have otherwise come to the U.S. to study, could then stay at home and conceivably pay a more “competitive” (read: cheaper) rate for law school.

With the number of LSAT takers shrinking and the number of law school applicants along with it, one can understand why law schools would do everything in their power to make sure their applicant pools don’t shrink further. After all, less students = less money. And at the end of the day, law schools have two main purposes: 1) further American legal education and 2) pay their brilliant professors.

Personally, I would welcome the accreditation of foreign law schools. Competition from afar might encourage American law schools to find ways to lower the cost of a legal education in this country. But until that happens, you’ll have to accept my apologies if you were hoping to attend law school in China. For now, you’ll just have to settle for a good ol’ fashioned ‘merican legal education.

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