CA Unaccredited Law School Closing, Leaves Positive Legacy

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on June 30, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Besides having the hardest bar exam of the states, California also has the greatest concentration of unaccredited law schools in the nation. And in the rank-obsessed world of law, this is not a good reputation to have.

Well, one of those schools has announced that it will be enrolling its last first year class and no more: California Southern Law School is shutting down.

Closing Down Operations

The privately-run, part-time and evening law school was founded in 1971 by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Elwood Rich, and the institution has been running ever since. But Rich died last year and his two sons, who work as registrar and dean, are ready to retire.

The school has an interesting backstory. The senior Rich previously taught torts at Riverside University School of Law until that school was closed down because of student loan violations scandals. Rich, the concerned educator, tried to find spots for his students at other schools but couldn't. So he founded California Southern.

According to the ABA Journal, the school never intended to seek full ABA accreditation. The educational research all took place at the local law library and the school stationed itself in a former nightclub. Indeed, according to the sons-Rich, this is part of the school's enduring appeal to locals. It kept tuition down and a fair number of its grads have managed to become local judges.

Dangerous Game

But despite the local influence California Southern Law School might have had, its influence outside of the region was rather small. Indeed, the unaccredited law school game is a bit of a gamble. In another piece by the ABA, it is estimated that 85 percent of students drop out of unaccredited schools and only about 20 percent of those eventually pass the bar. In other words, only three percent of the original entering class graduate from unaccredited schools and pass the bar. Then there's job prospects and moral character -- another hurtle that all law students must face.

University of San Diego law professor Robert Fellmeth had harsh words for unaccredited schools and would probably be happy to see California Southern Law School's fate: "They aren't even diploma mills, they are failure factories. They're selling false hope to people who are willing to put everything out there for a chance to be a lawyer."

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