Thursday, March 26, 2020

1889 Institute: abolish ABA accreditation for OK law schools, lead way in innovation

Oklahoma can lead the way in legal education innovation.

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (March 25, 2020) – According to a new 1889 Institute study, the American Bar Association (ABA) has a monopoly over legal education in the United States since 47 states have made the ABA their exclusive law school accrediting authority. Oklahoma is one of these states. Like the others, this state was urged by the ABA to give it such authority. This creates a conflict of interest wherein a politically active organization has outsized influence over the educations of attorneys, who constitute a plurality of legislators, make up the entirety of the judiciaries, and exercise great influence over executive agencies at the state and national levels.

“Though only 14 percent of lawyers belong to the ABA, they wield outsized influence over all three branches of our government by virtue of their dominance of legal education,” said Ben Lepak, 1889 Institute Legal Fellow and author of the study. “The ABA’s obsolete requirements, such as a certain number of paper volumes in a law library, stultifies innovation, increases the cost of a legal education, and limits the number of individuals educated in the law,” he said.

Lepak’s study points out that the ABA’s original mission in accrediting law schools was not to improve legal education, but to cut down on the number of attorneys due to what many already in the profession considered “overcrowding.” In other words, they wished to raise their fees by reducing the number of new lawyers.

“Since the ABA’s primary mission is to act in its members’ interests, it is a conflicted interest group that doesn’t even speak for most lawyers,” said Lepak.

The paper recommends that the Oklahoma legislature repeal the ABA’s exclusive ability to accredit law schools by repealing the requirement that to practice law in the state, one must have attended an ABA accredited law school. In turn, this should be coupled with a revamp of the bar exam to make it more relevant to the actual practice of law, making it a multi-part exam that would allow provisional licensing in certain aspects of the legal services where an examinee has proven proficient.

About the 1889 Institute
The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma think tank committed to independent, principled state policy fostering limited and responsible government, free enterprise and a robust civil society. The publication, “Breaking the ABA’s Law School Cartel: A Proposal to Make Oklahoma Top-Ten in Innovative Lawyer Education,” can be found on the nonprofit’s website at


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