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Unaccredited Law Schools: Ultimate Guide + List of Schools

October 31, 2023
4 min read


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 10/31/23

Picking the right law school can be difficult, and there are various factors to consider when choosing the right school for you. This article outlines the pros and cons of unaccredited law schools. 

male student looking at laptop in confusion

It is no easy task to decide on the right school for you. There is a lot at stake: financial responsibilities, future career prospects, and committing to a three-year degree. Making an informed decision is the best approach to an overall successful experience. 

One factor that you may want to consider is whether to attend an accredited or unaccredited school. Continue reading for information on unaccredited law schools to help with your decision. 

Accredited vs. Unaccredited Law Schools

Simply put, an accredited law school follows the American Bar Association’s (ABA) education standards regarding curriculum, faculty, and services standards. Unaccredited law schools also referred to as non-ABA law schools, have not been approved by the ABA. 

American Bar Association office

Source: Glassdoor

How Can Law Schools Lose Accreditation?

Schools can gain or lose accreditation status depending on whether they continue adhering to ABA guidelines. This can happen for several reasons, and it's essential to understand how this can happen. 

One common reason is not sticking to the curriculum standards set by the ABA. If a law school significantly changes its curriculum or doesn't offer the required courses, it could lose its accreditation.

Having a qualified and experienced faculty is crucial, and if a school struggles to hire or retain qualified professors, it might risk losing its accreditation. Additionally, if a school lowers its admission standards and accepts students who don't meet the ABA's criteria, it could face accreditation problems. 

Providing the right facilities, libraries, and resources for students is another factor. If a school can't maintain these properly, it might lose accreditation. Financial stability matters too; if a school faces severe financial difficulties, it could impact its accreditation.

Lastly, consistently low pass rates on the bar exam can raise concerns about the quality of education at a law school, potentially leading to a loss of accreditation. So, law schools need to meet ABA standards to keep their accredited status and provide students with a solid legal education.

Transferring from an Accredited to an Unaccredited Law School

If you’re considering transferring law schools, it’s important to keep its accreditation status in mind. Switching from an accredited to an unaccredited law school means moving from an institution that follows the ABA standards to one that doesn't. 

ABA standards cover the curriculum, faculty qualifications, and various service criteria, ensuring a consistent and recognized legal education.

Accredited law schools maintain a structured curriculum that meets ABA guidelines, providing a reputable legal education. On the flip side, unaccredited law schools might offer more flexibility in their programs but lack the same level of recognition.

One important thing to note is the bar exam, which is a significant hurdle for graduates of law schools not affiliated with LSAC. Many states have strict requirements, making it challenging for these graduates to sit for the exam. 

This can affect your path to becoming a licensed attorney and your career opportunities. So, before transferring to an unaccredited law school, carefully consider the potential impacts on your legal career.

List of Unaccredited Law Schools

Here is a list of non-ABA schools in the United States: 

  • Abraham Lincoln University School of Law
  • Birmingham School of Law
  • CAL Northern School of Law
  • California Desert Trial Academy College of Law
  • California School of Law
  • Concord Law School at Purdue University Global
  • Empire College School of Law
  • Glendale University College of Law
  • Humphreys College School of Law
  • Irvine University College of Law
  • John F. Kennedy University College of Law
  • Lincoln Law School of Sacramento
  • Lincoln Law School of San Jose
  • Massachusetts School of Law at Andover
  • Miles Law School
  • Monterey College of Law
  • Nashville School of Law
  • Northwestern California University School of Law
  • Oak Brook College of Law
  • Pacific Coast University School of Law
  • Pacific West College of Law
  • Saint Francis School of Law
  • San Francisco International University College of Law
  • San Francisco Law School at Alliant International University
  • San Joaquin College of Law
  • Santa Barbara College of Law
  • Southern California Institute of Law
  • Taft Law School
  • Trinity Law School, Trinity International University
  • Ventura College of Law
  • The University of West Los Angeles School of Law—West Los Angeles
  • Western Sierra Law School

Before you decide to attend any of these schools, it's crucial to do your homework and understand what that means for your legal career.

Attending Unaccredited Law Schools: The Pros

woman giving thumbs up

People may favor unaccredited law schools mainly because of cheaper tuition and expenses. The average accredited law school student graduates with $108,00 in student loan debt. Considering the high financial stress of pursuing a law degree, choosing a school with lower costs can be very appealing. 

Additionally, unaccredited law schools are much less rigid with the admissions process in comparison to ABA-approved schools, making them easier to get into. Additionally, those who do not wish to take the LSAT or have lower GPAs can apply for an unaccredited law school and get accepted. 

Unaccredited law schools also have more flexible scheduling, including part-time and online options. Whereas most J.D. programs are three years, students typically take four years to earn their J.D. at unaccredited schools. Individuals with full-time day jobs or other commitments may find the convenient and flexible scheduling very attractive. 

Attending Unaccredited Law Schools: The Cons

man giving thumbs down

While lower costs and flexible schedules are tempting, employment prospects and opportunities for graduates from unaccredited law schools are much lower than those from accredited schools. 

Reputation matters a great deal when it comes to finding a job after law school. Employers generally prefer graduates from reputable, accredited law schools. These schools have a track record of providing high-quality legal education, which employers trust. 

On the other hand, graduates from unaccredited law schools might face more challenges in the job market, as their school credentials might not carry the same weight.

Another important aspect is the bar exam. Passing this exam is crucial for becoming a licensed attorney. However, it can be much harder for graduates of unaccredited law schools. In most states, they aren't even allowed to take the bar exam. 

This not only limits their career opportunities but also confines where they can practice law. In simple terms, attending an unaccredited law school can significantly impact your legal career, so it's vital to consider accreditation when choosing a school.

FAQs: Unaccredited Law Schools

If you still have questions about unaccredited law schools, keep reading for answers to some frequently asked questions about non-ABA schools. 

1. Why Do People Go To Unaccredited Law Schools?

Many people may choose to go to unaccredited law schools because of the lower fees and flexible schedules. Those who cannot afford tuition at accredited schools or do not want to take on large amounts of student loan debt may opt to apply to a non-ABA school. 

Individuals with lower LSAT scores, no LSAT score, or lower GPAs may still be accepted into an unaccredited school. Getting into law school is highly competitive, and those not admitted into accredited schools have a better chance of admission into unaccredited schools. 

2. Is an Unaccredited Law School Worth It?

Only you can decide where an unaccredited law school is worth it for yourself. Look at fees, expenses, programs, services, location, reputation, and curriculums from ABA and non-ABA schools and pick the best fit for you and your goals.

There’s no right or wrong answer; you should pick the school where you think you’d be most successful.  

Just keep in mind that while lower fees and a less competitive admissions process can be enticing, you should consider your future career prospects and the states you wish to practice law in. It is important to note that you cannot sit in on the bar exam in most states if you have graduated from an unaccredited school. 

3. How Many Unaccredited Law Schools are There in the United States?

There are currently over thirty unaccredited law schools in the United States--with most being located in California. 

4. What States Allow Non-ABA Law Schools?

If you graduate from an accredited law school, you can sit in on the bar in any state. However, the rules vary from state to state concerning unaccredited schools. 

Some states, including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kentucky, and New Hampshire, will allow graduates from an unaccredited law school to sit in on the bar. However, these states require the individual to have also practiced law for at least three to five years if they are non-ABA graduates. 

Some states, like Texas, Michigan, and Missouri, require individuals to have graduated from an accredited law school to sit in on the bar. 

California, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington are the only states that allow students to skip law school entirely and qualify for the bar exam after individuals complete a legal apprenticeship. 

Final Thoughts

Various factors come into play when deciding which law school to attend. There are pros and cons for both unaccredited and accredited schools; ultimately, it is up to you to decide which school best fits you. 

While most graduates from unaccredited schools who pass the bar end up with successful legal careers, it is recommended that you aim to gain entry to an ABA school first.

Admission to an accredited law school may be a safer bet for future career prospects, security, and pay. However, with the lower fees and flexible schedule options, an unaccredited law school may be the best choice for you. 

Do your research and check out the credibility of any school before you make your choice. This will be one of the first significant steps in building your career and future, so take your time and reflect. Good luck!

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