Lynchburg, VA – Liberty University School of Law was awarded full accreditation approval by the American Bar Association during its annual meeting in San Francisco. On August 5, the ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar granted full approval to the law school.* The Council is recognized as the accrediting agency of law schools by the U.S. Department of Education.
Liberty University School of Law opened in August 2004. A law school must complete a full academic year before it is eligible to apply for provisional approval by the ABA. The School of Law applied for provisional approval in 2005 and was awarded provisional approval on February 13, 2006, only eighteen months after the first students arrived on campus. To our knowledge, this was the shortest time that any law school in history had obtained provisional approval at that time. It is not possible to obtain provisional approval in a shorter time. Provisional approval means the ABA has determined that the law school is in substantial compliance with all the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools. Provisional approval allows students to sit for the bar exam. Without provisional or full approval, students can graduate from law school with a Juris Doctor degree but, generally, are not eligible to take the bar exam. Without the ability to take a bar exam, a person with a JD degree cannot practice law.
A law school must be provisionally approved for at least two years before it is eligible to apply for full approval. Liberty applied for full approval in March 2009. In October 2009, the ABA sent a full Site Team to the campus for three days to conduct a thorough review of the program of legal education. On June 24, 2010, Dean Mathew Staver, Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., and Vice Chancellor and Acting Provost Dr. Ron Godwin appeared before the ABA Accreditation Committee in Washington, DC, for a three-hour hearing to review the law school’s program. Composed of 17 experts in legal education and public representatives plus certain ABA staff, the Accreditation Committee concluded that the law school met all the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools and recommended full approval. On August 5, 2010, Dean Staver and Chancellor Falwell appeared before the Council for the final round of hearings. Comprised of 24 separate experts in legal education and public representatives, the Council voted to grant full accreditation approval to School of Law on its first application. Obtaining full approval is a rigorous process and indicates that the law school is in full compliance with all the ABA accrediting standards for law schools. There are only 200 provisionally or fully ABA approved law schools in the country.
Now that the law school is fully approved, it will move forward with plans to launch degrees in addition to the JD. Some of the degrees in planning include various specialties in law (LL.M.), a master’s in Public Policy, and a Ph.D. in law. When implemented, the non-JD degrees will be both residential and online. The law school also plans on launching study abroad programs. The locations include Israel, Europe and Asia. The law school is also considering an accelerated degree program for eligible students to obtain an undergraduate and law degree in six, rather than seven years, by combining undergraduate courses and courses from the school of law. This fall the law school and Liberty University will announce the dual degree program, which allows law students to obtain a master’s degree, along with their law degree, in less time when combined together. These degrees include the JD/MBA, JD/MDiv, JD/MAR, JD/MEd, JD/EdS, JD/EdD, and JD/MA-Human Services.
Chancellor Falwell commented: “The accreditation approval of the school of law represents a significant milestone in the history of Liberty University. It is a giant step toward the fulfillment of Liberty’s mission to train students to serve Christ and to serve their fellow human beings in every profession and in every walk of life. The speed of the approval is a credit to the school of law and to the quality of its program. The law school has surpassed my father’s expectations, and, in just a few short years, has already begun to positively impact the culture and legal education.”
Dean Staver remarked: “Obtaining full accreditation approval has been a rigorous but rewarding process. Now that the law school has reached this milestone in only six years since it opened, we are ready to move forward with new and exciting programs. We knew we had a good program of legal education because our students compete against well-established law schools in every area of competition and they perform exceptionally well. We can barely build the trophy cases fast enough to keep up with the awards our students are winning. Achieving full approval is a testament to the quality of the law school’s legal education and to the many people who make it possible.”
This article is excerpted from a Liberty University press release.