FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AT
TUESDAY, JUNE 27, 1995 (202) 616-2771
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AND AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLVE CHARGES
THAT THE ABA'S PROCESS FOR ACCREDITING LAW SCHOOLS WAS MISUSED
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Justice and the
American Bar Association today resolved charges that the ABA
process for accrediting law schools had been misused to inflate
faculty salaries and benefits.
The Antitrust Division filed a civil lawsuit and settlement
in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleging that the ABA
used its power as the law school accrediting agency to protect
law faculties' economic interests and working conditions.
Anne K. Bingaman, Assistant Attorney General in charge of
the Antitrust Division, said, "The ABA's accreditation process
required that universities raise salaries to artificially-inflated levels,
and meet other costly accreditation requirements
that had little to do with the quality of the legal education
they provided. The settlement reached today stops this
Under today's proposed settlement, the ABA would be
* Fixing faculty salaries;
* Refusing to accredit schools simply because they are
* Refusing to allow ABA-approved law schools to accept
credits for classes at schools that are state-accredited but not
The settlement also:
* Establishes a special committee to determine if ABA
accreditation requirements in six other areas should be revised--
student to faculty ratios, teaching loads, sabbaticals, bar
preparation courses, facilities, and other resources.
* Opens up the ABA accreditation process so that it is no
longer controlled by legal faculty who benefit from requiring
better pay and working conditions.
"The powerful status of the ABA does not insulate it from
the antitrust laws," said Bingaman. "The Antitrust Division has
sued many professional trade associations, which, like the ABA,
have violated the antitrust laws. Lawyers must keep their own
house in order as well."
The complaint charges that the ABA's accreditation process
had the effect of pressuring law schools to raise salaries to the
national or regional median. The Department said by pressuring
schools to pay the median salary, the ABA kept raising the target
that schools had to meet.
About 90 percent of the ABA's Section of Legal Education
members are law faculty. The section is responsible for the law
school accreditation program, which has operated without adequate
oversight. The complaint alleges that the lack of oversight has
led to abuses in the accreditation process, leading to an undue
focus on guild concerns rather than quality education.
Through the process established by the consent decree, the
ABA will work in the months ahead to revise its accreditation
standards to address the problems identified in the government's
complaint. Bingaman said, "We are pleased that the ABA has acted
promptly and responsibly to address these issues, so that its
important role in accrediting the nation's law schools can be
performed appropriately and effectively."
The ABA, which is headquartered in Chicago, is the world's
largest professional association for lawyers. There are
currently 177 ABA-approved law schools.
To become effective, the consent decree must be approved by
the court following a 60-day comment period as required by the
Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act. If the consent decree is
approved by the court, it will settle the suit.