New investigation finds shockingly high dropout rates at a certain kind of law school

An acceptance into law school, though a tremendous accomplishment, still represents an uphill battle for many students. There are three gruelling years of studies, months of studying for the bar exam, and the work it takes to land a job in an overcrowded job market.

But for students at unaccredited law schools in California, the reality of succeeding is even less likely, with nearly nine in 10 students dropping out before they graduate, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday.

Students at these schools are three times more likely to drop out than their counterparts at American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools in the state.

“They are failure factories,” Robert Fellmeth, the Price Professor of Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law, told the Times. “They’re selling false hope to people who are willing to put everything out there for a chance to be a lawyer.”

California, Alaska, and Tennessee are the only states whose state legislatures or bar examiners allow for unaccredited schools.

“Most jurisdictions simply don’t allow this kind of law school to exist at all. Period,” Frank Wu, chancellor and dean of UC Hastings College of Law, told the Times. “California is very, very unusual.”

Unaccredited law schools serve a high percentage of individuals who work full-time jobs and attend law school on the side.

They are also less expensive than accredited law schools, providing the opportunity for a law degree to students who would otherwise not be able to afford the cost.

“With the lure of convenience, the lower debt ratio, and the potential of being a successful lawyer, a non-ABA school plucks out some pretty vulnerable and unqualified students to fund their ABA ambitions,” Monrae English, a partner at Wild, Carter & Tipton in Fresno, California, told the US News & World Report in 2012.

“Very sad to say that I know dozens of graduates who have never been able to pass the bar or find that their careers are limited to working in low-level government legal jobs,” English said.

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