The American Bar Association has decided to withdraw accreditation from Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
That's what happens when a law school does not live up to the ABA's educational standards. The law school intends to appeal the decision, but the death march has already begun.
It's hard to spin a happy ending out of a sad story, but Thomas Jefferson has been fighting the odds for years. The good news is that school administrators have a strategy to beat them.
The Good News
Fortunately for its students, the law school won accredited from California bar authorities last year. That means graduates will have the same opportunity to sit for the state bar exam as graduates from any ABA-accredited school.
It was a smart move for the San Diego-based law school pending the ABA's decision to withdraw accreditation, which will take about six to nine months before it can become final. Thomas Jefferson will fight it out to the likely conclusion.
The ABA put the law school on probation in 2017. The Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar found the school fell below standards related to financial resources, admissions, academics, and bar pass rates.
The problems were significant, requiring "immediate and substantial action" to put the law school on a "realistic path" to compliance. With the handwriting on the wall, law school officials decided to move for California's accreditation.
The Bad News
Unfortunately for the law school, numbers usually don't lie. Thomas Jefferson's bar pass numbers have declined steadily in recent years.
In 2016, approximately 35 percent of its graduates passed the California bar exam. The pass rate went down to 26 percent in 2017, and fell below 24 percent in 2018.
By comparison, California bar pass rate for ABA-schools was about 60 percent that year. In other words, Thomas Jefferson graduates may qualify to take the bar exam without ABA-accreditation, but they are far less likely to pass it.
In the meantime, the law school's officials say they have raised admission standards and are "continuing to recruit an even stronger class for Fall 2019 while continuing to attract a diverse student body."