ABA grants full accreditation to UC Irvine, denies paid externships

The University of California, Irvine School of Law received full accreditation from the American Bar Association at its June meeting. The accreditor of law schools also decided to continue to ban law students from receiving pay for academic externships.

UC Irvine earned full accreditation at the earliest possible date. The approval was expected, as UC Irvine has excelled with its academic program, graduation and bar passage rates.

But the denial to lift the ban on pay for externships was more of a surprise. A committee had recommended the change in February as a way to make law school more affordable, and the ABA’s Law Student Division had lobbied hard for the change, arguing that the policy imposes an undue financial hardship on students.

But the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar voted on June 6 to retain the ban. The standards now go before the ABA’s House of Delegates at their annual meeting in August, and it could reverse the decision. But that is very unlikely.

The Society of American Law Teachers was among the opponents to the change.

“Allowing students to be paid while simultaneously getting academic externship course credit will necessarily undermine the academic focus of field placement experiences and will not likely expand the number or kind of placements available to students,” it said in a comment submitted to the ABA. “At a time when experiential learning is becoming an increasingly important part of legal education, it is crucial to ensure that field placement experiences are sufficiently educational and that the benefits to the student, not to the placement host, are paramount."