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Indiana Tech School of Law opened in 2013, touting its emphasis on practical skills and "synergistic" approach to cross-disciplinary studies. It graduated its first class of J.D.s just this May, just 20 in all. Of that 20, only 12 sat for the bar exam in Indiana. Of that twelve, only one passed. That's a pass rate of only 8.33 percent, just slightly higher than the interest rates on those grads' student loans.
The school was granted provisional accreditation just this March, but its poor showing on the bar exam should have students and administrators wondering about its future.
When Indiana Tech School of Law opened three years ago, it became the Hoosier State's fifth law school and faced its fair share of skepticism. (Did Indiana need as many law schools as Washington, D.C.? Was the legal market in Indiana, a state with one of the lowest numbers of lawyers per capita in the country, going to be able to employ these new grads?)
Then there was the issue of accreditation. Indiana Tech was denied provision accreditation last year, largely without explanation. It cleared that hurdle in March, after having expanded its third year curriculum and emphasizing legal writing, according to the Indiana Lawyer.
Provisional accreditation allowed those grads to take the bar exam and Indiana Tech gained it just in time for its first class -- or maybe too soon.
Not only did just one 2016 grad pass the Indiana bar, he still doesn't have a job. Above the Law's Staci Zaretsky recently interviewed that one grad, Brooks Ledger. He's hoping Indiana Tech's bar exam belly flop won't impact his job hunt, but "it would be naive of me to think that Indiana Tech's track record will not impact my job prospects, especially in the local community," he says.
Ledger doesn't blame Indiana Tech for his cohort's low pass rate, and he says other students don't either. "For the ones who took it, they are disappointed, but only with themselves. Other than for a few important classes that were poorly taught our first year, the school did everything they possibly could to get us prepared for the bar exam."
But the ABA might be less forgiving. The association's accreditation and oversight program has been criticized by federal regulators, who instituted a one year suspension of the ABA's accreditation authority this summer. That suspension could lead the ABA to strengthen its accreditation standards. In March, the ABA's Standards Review Committee recommended a series of reforms to help close accreditation loopholes, including requiring 75 percent of a school' grads to take and pass the bar exam within two years.
Indiana Tech has until 2021 to get full accreditation if it wants to keep graduating future lawyers. That will require the school to demonstrate its compliance with the ABA's standards, perhaps to newly critical evaluators.
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