If you’ve have been following this blog, you may have noticed a big elephant in the room. AbeSquare is intended to be a place where you can drop in and check out all that is happening at LMU. It’s meant to be less formal than a press release, kind of a look behind the scenes on what is happing at the University.
So if this blog is going to live up to its intention, it is time to address the elephant in the blogsphere. That elephant is the John J. Duncan School of Law and its bid to gain provisional accreditation by the American Bar Association. It’s a topic that has been a hot button in certain circles on campus for much of the last year. For me personally, it has been a tightrope I’ve tried to inch across by doing what is best for the University. Aside from the storm damage in Harrogate, it was probably the biggest story for LMU last week.
To step back a little and provide a little background, LMU’s journey to ABA accreditation began in early 2008 when the University took over the lease of the Old City Hall building in downtown Knoxville. Shortly after the lease signing, LMU Trustees announced its plans to found a law school. Initial planning and a feasibility study were performed. In August of the same year, a founding Dean, Sydney A. Beckman, was hired and faculty began to come on board.
All the while, the administration of the new law school was working with the goal that the school would eventually be ABA accredited. However, there were more important steps in their path. First, the University had to gain Tennessee Board of Law Examiners and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges approval to start to recruit students. After both bodies gave the okay, LMU announced that it was naming its newest professional studies school after Tennessee Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr., a long time public servant and supporter of LMU. Recruiting the first class was already underway and the Lincoln Memorial University-Duncan School of Law (LMU-DSOL) was just months away from opening its doors.
In August of 2009, LMU-DSOL’s inaugural class was seated and sworn in as first year law students. The University could not even apply for ABA accreditation until their first year of study was complete. So the next year was spent recruiting a full-time cohort to join the part-time students in the second year of operation. All the while, LMU’s administration was preparing for applicant status with the ABA.
As soon as it was eligible, LMU-DSOL applied for and gained applicant status with the ABA. This step, set LMU on the nearly two years and counting odyssey that has resulted in Thursday’s announcement by the ABA that LMU-DSOL has been denied provisional accreditation. The news came after LMU appealed the ABA’s initial denial in December and after LMU filed a lawsuit against the ABA.
LMU administrators are actually in a meeting now as I type this, determining the next steps the University will take.
So here it is, the elephant in the room. LMU-DSOL has been denied provisional accreditation by the ABA. While there is not a lot of inside scoop or behind-the-scenes information I can share right now, I can assure you that LMU still intends to have an ABA accredited law school and we are going to keep fighting the good fight until we reach our goal.