The University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law has been granted provisional approval for accreditation from the American Bar Association after initially being denied accreditation last fall.
The ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar announced its decision on June 3 following a positive recommendation from the ABA Accreditation Committee and a review of documents and testimony provided by UNT.
The provisional approval means that the school’s progress will be closely monitored by the ABA, which will determine whether the school should receive full accreditation. Provisional accreditation gives the school and its graduates all of the rights and recognition of a fully approved law school, according to the ABA. But UNT will have to wait at least three more years before it can gain full accreditation, assuming it meets all the standards set by ABA. In years two and four the ABA will visit the school for a full evaluation.
“Our goal has always been to equip graduates with practice-ready competencies and the practical knowledge to pass the Texas Bar Exam,” the school’s Founding Dean Royal Furgeson said in a release. “We now have a clear path to demonstrate that the innovative curriculum and the resources we’ve established will support exactly that kind of success.”
The positive recommendation came less than a year after the ABA denied the school accreditation in August 2016. The ABA released its initial recommendation alongside a 21-page report, citing concerns about the school’s admissions policies and financial conditions. The school was given the opportunity to respond to the negative recommendation—both with a written response and in an October hearing before the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Furgeson felt good about the school’s chances before the ABA Council. A number of new law schools have faced similar situations to UNT Dallas College of Law—initially denied provisional accreditation, only to win accreditation later on, according to a D CEO article published in October.
On May 20, the school held its first Juris Doctor hooding ceremony for 74 students of the inaugural class. The graduates are the first to come out of the first public law school in Dallas.
Founded in 2013, the UNT Dallas College of Law offers legal education to the increasingly diverse population of Dallas-Fort Worth. According to UNT-Dallas, nearly 52 percent of its law students in September 2015 were minorities (21 percent were Hispanic, and 20 percent were African-American). Last year, the school opened two community lawyering centers in downtown Dallas and in Fair Park, where students can practice meeting the legal needs of underrepresented communities.
Now, in its third year, the school has attracted students from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and life experiences—as well as garnered support from the Dallas legal community.
UNT System Chancellor Lee F. Jackson commended the school for its “new and innovative approach to legal education.”
“To its credit, the ABA Council viewed our application from that perspective,” Jackson said in a release. “Now we can focus on serving Dallas, the region, and the entire state with a low-cost, high-quality, practice-oriented legal education that will support economic growth and opportunity for a broad and diverse and talented group of law students.”