LMU-Duncan School of Law files suit over ABA approval

LMU-Duncan School of Law files suit over ABA approval

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The Duncan School of Law has nearly 200 enrolled full and part-time students. The Duncan School of Law has nearly 200 enrolled full and part-time students.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Lincoln Memorial University John J. Duncan, Jr. School of Law filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the American Bar Association over its denial of school accreditation.

The suit alleges that the ABA denied the school due process and violated the Antitrust Act.

LMU received an email Tuesday with the ABA's decision to deny the university's first application for provisional accreditation.

The university administration maintains that LMU has met or exceeded every applicable standard for accreditation set by the ABA.

"Our law school is designed to serve a mission, to provide an opportunity to students in Appalachia that might otherwise never be able to go to law school," said Vice President and Dean Sydney A. Beckman. "We look at students from a holistic point of view. We admit students who in their mind we should not admit."

"We have a full-time or part-time (evening) option. We give our students laptops to allow them access to legal resources and study aids. We record our classes so students can review their classes again. We podcast lectures, provide free academic support classes and require students to perform pro bono work in the community," Beckman explained.

"We regret having to take this action. We want to work with the ABA to improve legal education, not work against them or have them work against us," he added.

The decision comes after LMU was quoted in a recent New York Times article criticizing the ABA's standards. "I don't think anything in that article would impact the decision. I certainly hope not," Beckman said.

Law students like Kyle Vaughn are caught in the middle of the mess. "We were going to serve the heart of Appalachia so know that. That was what drew me to the school," he said.

The Doctor of Jurisprudence program at LMU has approval from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners.

The Duncan School of Law has nearly 200 enrolled full and part-time students and 16 faculty members. The inaugural class is due to graduate in 2013.

Regardless of the ABA status, all LMU graduates may apply to sit for the bar exam in Tennessee.

However, ABA's accreditation is what allows a law student to sit for the bar exam in many states other than Tennessee.

"We have students from Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina and they need the opportunity to take the bar exam in that state," Beckman said.

This is also an issue of law school pride. "The bottom line is, we want a fair evaluation. That is the bottom line," Beckman said.

The Duncan School of Law is in Knoxville's historic Old City Hall Building at Henley Street and W. Summit Hill Drive.

6 News contacted the ABA Thursday for a response to the lawsuit, but hasn't heard back from the association.

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