Earlier this month, Arizona Summit Law School sued the American Bar Association after the ABA's accreditors put the school on probation. Don Lively, Arizona Summit's president, claims the ABA's accrediting standards are "vague, indeterminate, and subject to manipulation"; and Penny Wilrich, the law school's interim dean, accused the ABA of creating a "false narrative" about the school.
False narrative? Without a doubt, Arizona Summit is a lousy law school. Last February, only one out of five Arizona Summit graduates passed the Arizona bar exam (25 out of 126 test takers). Among repeat exam takers, only one out of seven passed it (11 out of 81).
And Arizona Summit is an expensive school to attend. According to Law School Transparency, the total non-discounted cost of getting a JD degree from this crummy law school is $248,000. Wow! A quarter of a million dollars buys a graduate a one-in-five shot of passing the Arizona bar exam.
No wonder one student thinks the school is misnamed. "It's not a summit," the student observed. "It's Death Valley."
Arizona Summit is one of three law schools owned by a for-profit company named Infilaw, and all three schools have sued the ABA claiming they were treated unfairly. I gather the law schools' main argument is that other law schools are even crappier and the ABA isn't sanctioning them.
Unfortunately, the Infilaw schools may be right. Law School Transparency's reports on law-school quality consistently show a number of schools with very low admission standards and poor pass rates on bar exams--including some historically black law schools. ABA may find it hard to explain why it is sanctioning the for-profit law schools and not the HBCU law schools.
Without a doubt, legal education is in shambles. Inferior law schools are charging students obscene tuition rates and graduating too many students who cannot pass their bar exams.
But the solution is not for the ABA to ease up on regulating dodgy schools, which is what the Infilaw schools apparently want it to do. On the contrary, the ABA needs to crack down harder. In my estimation, at least 20 law schools should be closed.
Arizona Supreme Court. February 2018 Examination Results.
Anne Ryman. Arizona Summit Law School sues American Bar Association, claims abuse of power. The Republic, May 24, 2018.
Staci Zaretsky. Law School Completely Wrecks State's Bar Exam Pass Rate, As Usual. Above the Law, May 15, 2018.