« on: December 03, 2006, 07:27:29 AM »
From the Charleston Post and Courier:
School of Law gets the go-ahead
Accreditation means graduates can take bar
BY DIANE KNICH
The Post and Courier
Charleston School of Law students breathed a collective sigh of relief Saturday after learning the institution had become accredited by the American Bar Association.
The school was not accredited when it opened in the fall of 2004 because a law school can't earn accreditation until it has been open for at least two years.
Law school dean Richard Gershon said that now that the school's accredited, students who graduate can take the bar exam and practice law.
Third-year law student Courtney Gibbes, 27, said students "have been on pins and needles" waiting for the decision. Gibbes and about 170 other students will likely graduate in May and plan to take the bar exam this summer.
Had the school failed the accreditation process, they couldn't have taken the exam.
Students are in the middle of final exams, Gibbes said, but she thought most would likely take a Saturday-night break to celebrate. "I think (the bars on) upper King Street will probably be pretty busy," she said.
Gershon said Saturday's approval from the bar association's Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will yield benefits for the school beyond allowing students to take the bar exam.
From now on, he said, students will qualify for federal student loans, faculty will be listed in the Association of American Law Schools' directory, and the school will gain "credibility in the academic world."
It also means "this law school is going to be a permanent fixture in Charleston, and that's good for the city," Gershon said.
The law school will get an official letter detailing the bar association's evaluation of its application in a few weeks, he said.For now, he knows only that the school earned provisional accreditation. That's the highest level of accreditation the school can earn at this point, Gershon said.
Full accreditation can take up to five years and depends largely on the rate at which graduates pass the bar exam.
The school faced a hurdle in June when the bar association's council deferred action on its accreditation application until the school dealt with concerns about its diversity, staffing, governance and library.
Gershon has said the school aggressively addressed the council's concerns.
Third-year student John Robinson, 24, called the deferral "a bump in the road."
He said students were "guardedly optimistic" about the school becoming accredited this weekend. "When you've committed the kind of money we have, you're going to be nervous," he said.
Tuition for full-time students is about $28,000 a year.
But, he said, students were willing to take the risk and attend a new law school because they believed in the school's public service mission.
Steve Abrams, 47, who also will graduate in May, said students who want to take the bar exam in July now have to get busy filling out the 30-page application, which is due at the end of the month.
Students couldn't turn them in until the school was accredited, he said. "Most of us were waiting at the starting line."