CPIL's Robert Fellmeth Quoted in Los Angeles Times Article on Low Retention Rates of Unaccredited Law Schools

CPIL's Robert Fellmeth Quoted in Los Angeles Times Article on Low Retention Rates of Unaccredited Law Schools

Los Angeles (July 25, 2015) – University of San Diego (USD) School of Law Professor Robert C. Fellmeth was quoted in a Los Angeles Times article reporting on the low retention rates of unaccredited law schools in California. 

According to a Times investigation based on recent state bar data, nearly 9 out of 10 students at California's unaccredited law schools dropped out. Students attending unaccredited law schools in California were three times more likely to drop out than students in schools accredited by the state bar. 

Of the few who completed classes at the unaccredited law schools, only 1 in 5 ever became a lawyer, according to state records.

These law schools have flourished because California is one of a handful of states in the nation that allow students from unaccredited institutions to take the bar exam. The 22 schools offer four-year programs and are required to register with the state bar, but they are held to few academic standards.

Faculty typically are working attorneys. They don't receive tenure and generally aren't paid much — "gas money" as one law school administrator said. They work at the schools out of a desire to teach.

Unlike accredited schools, the unaccredited campuses exist in a regulatory gray area where they are not required to meet the same standards.

Some experts say action is long overdue.

"They aren't even diploma mills, they are failure factories," said Fellmeth, Price Professor of Public Interest Law at USD and current director of the Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL). "They're selling false hope to people who are willing to put everything out there for a chance to be a lawyer."

Over the years, there have been unsuccessful attempts to phase out the unaccredited schools.

Some current bar officials say the high attrition rate shows that these schools are rigorous enough to weed out students who have little chance of success.

The schools "show people very quickly that studying the law, even online, is much harder than getting an associate's degree from community college," said George Leal, the bar's director of educational standards.

State bar officials are considering a proposal to require the schools to meet California accreditation standards within 10 years and create standards for online law schools to obtain accreditation.

Read the full article on

About Professor Fellmeth

Robert Fellmeth is the Price Professor of Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law, where he teaches and writes in the areas of children's rights, regulation, antitrust, and consumer law. Professor Fellmeth is also the executive director of both USD’s Center for Public Interest Law and Children's Advocacy Institute.

About the University of San Diego School of Law

Celebrating 60 years of alumni success, the University of San Diego (USD) School of Law is recognized for the excellence of its faculty, depth of its curriculum, and strength of its clinical programs. Each year, USD educates approximately 900 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world. The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 81 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates. The law school’s faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 23rd worldwide in all-time faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, nonprofit, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.

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