Feds and states bless ABA’s gatekeeper status in law school accreditation. Why?

The American Bar Association (ABA)

has been granted monopoly status over the accreditation of law schools by the U.S. Department of Education (for purposes of determining eligibility for federal student loans) and nearly all state supreme courts (for purposes of determining eligibility to take the bar exam). Monopoly status is inevitably prone to abuse, and in recent decades the ABA has gone far beyond its original mission of establishing minimum standards for legal education to protect the public. Professor John Baker maintains that “the ABA is an ideological organization forcing its ideology into the standards on accreditation.”

I found while researching my book on legal academia, Schools for Misrule, that the ABA’s and AALS’s (Association of American Law Schools) role as accreditors has had far-reaching structural effects on law schools and probably ideological effects too, as well as restricting competition and discouraging innovation. I agree with Mark Pulliam that the federal government and states should refrain from artificially promoting these groups’ gatekeeper role or, worse, conferring monopoly status on them [Law and Liberty]


  • The ABA is unquestionably a partisan organization. They rated Elena Kagan as “well qualified” despite the fact she has zero experience as a judge or work as a trial lawyer:


  • Kagan had argued six cases before the Supreme Court as part of her service as U.S. Solicitor General, as well as serving as dean of Harvard Law School. There are plenty of better examples to pick if you’re looking to document the ABA’s well-documented ideological bias (which is probably a better concept here than partisanship in any case).

    • Unless you want to take into consideration her treatment of military members conducting interviews at HLS and blaming the treatment on “the military’s policy” (i.e., DADT) instead of forthrightly adminitting that DADT was enshrined in the US Code, then you’d have to say that Kagan was well-qualified.

      However, the ABA definitely has stiffed GOP judges—look at the ratings of Jeff Sutton and Eric Clay. There is zero doubt who is the better judge.

  • What would it take to remake the legal profession in the US?

    For example, abolishing the supply-limiting and price-raising requirement that law students first obtain an undergraduate degree, thus permitting people to study law straight from high school as is standard in many other countries.

    How about a trimmed-down law degree, study for which would consist of a year of overview courses of constitutional law, contracts, torts, professional ethics, etc., followed by two years of concentrated study in the speciality of the student’s choice: intellectual property, family, wills and trusts, insurance, real estate, etc. Such courses could easily be offered by low-cost community colleges. A graduate would be permitted to practice only the type of law s/he qualified in but could always go back to school to change specialities.

    Any such scheme would greatly reduce the price of legal services and the status of lawyers, but I believe both developments would be wholly good. Law isn’t rocket science. Break up the legal cartel, open legal education to the world, and watch prices drop and lawyers become more like other workers: people practicing a white-collar trade..