Duncan Law School Turns Bad News Into Good

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 11, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Unless you are from Tennessee, you probably never heard of Duncan School of Law.

With about 200 students, it practically had to sue the American Bar Association to be recognized. Literally, Duncan sued after the ABA denied accreditation based on concerns students there would not be able to pass the bar exam.

But then 81 percent of the first graduating class passed the local exam and things started looking up -- provisional accreditation, no more lawsuit -- and then this happened.

The ABA -- Again

Three years after granting provisional approval to the fledgling school, the ABA sent a chilly letter to the dean. It wasn't the death knell for accreditation, but it wasn't good news either.

Blah, blah, blah ... the "law school is significantly out of compliance with ABA standards," wrote Barry Currier, managing director of Accreditation and Legal Education.

Basically, the ABA repeated complaints it first leveled at the law school about students not being prepared to pass the bar exam. It also drilled down on admissions policies and raised concerns about attrition rates.

That was new; after all the school has been in business for less than a decade. Dean Gary Wade said they're working on it, and they expect to be completely compliant soon.

Attrition Rate

The dean said the school already fixed the old problems, and that graduates continue to pass the bar at high rates. Two years ago, the first-time pass rate was nearly 88 percent.

"Although our bar pass rates in prior years have met and exceeded the ABA standard, it is true that our attrition, which by the recent interpretation also includes students on a leave of absence, has been a source of concern," Wade told the ABA Journal.

According to the school, its nontransfer attrition rate last year was 22.2 percent for first-year students. In non-academic reporting terms, those would be fails and dropouts.

Wade said it has a new policy for that: refund tuition to students found to be academically ineligible after the first semester if their LSAT scores or GPAs are in the 25th quartile of admitted students for their class.

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