NC Central law school in hot water over students dropping out

(CBS North Carolina)

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina Central University’s Law School is “not in compliance,” according to a letter the American Bar Association sent to school administrators this month following a meeting of the accreditation committee.

Administrators have to send a report to the accreditation committee by Feb. 1 and appear before the committee in June.

The letter cites the school’s compliance with admissions standards. The ABA’s standards for approval of law schools notes, “A law school shall not admit applicants who do not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its educational program and being admitted to the bar.”

Third-year law student Josh Sotomayor says over the years, the school has given opportunities to people who might not have received them elsewhere.

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“A lot of people became attorneys who otherwise wouldn’t, who deserve to be attorneys. But then other people were able to come and try out law school that otherwise likely wouldn’t have,” he said. “As a result of the opportunity extended by the institution, you did see a large number of people not make it back.”

Law schools file a report annually with the American Bar Association, referred to as a 509 report.

In NCCU’s 2017 report, it notes 37.7 percent of first-year law students did not return for year two. By comparison, the attrition rate at Campbell University was 10.5 percent. At Duke University, it was 0.9 percent. Meanwhile at UNC-Chapel Hill it was 0 percent.

Data obtained by online publication Above the Law shows more than 80 percent of students at Duke, UNC and Campbell passed the North Carolina bar exam on their first attempt in July 2017. At Central, the pass rate was 56.7 percent.

T. Greg Doucette graduated from Central in 2012 and now heads the alumni association.

He said, “We’ve always had people not come back. The question is: Are they not coming back because they don’t like the law, they can’t handle the academic course load, or life happens?”

His organization will meet Saturday to see what help they can offer school administrators.

“We have faculty here that are distinguished in their field. We have a lot of academic support to help (students) out. They’ve got to make sure they’re doing what they can to complete the coursework and ask for help when they need it,” he said.

University administrators declined an interview request from CBS North Carolina. Instead, they sent a statement from the law school’s dean, Phyllis Craig-Taylor:

As Dean of the NCCU School of Law school, I have the opportunity each day to witness firsthand the promise that legal education offers to our students, their families and, ultimately, to the people of North Carolina who they will serve upon graduation. We have always utilized a holistic approach to admissions and closely review each applicant’s full application package in weighing our admissions decision. In light of the communication from the ABA, we are implementing more data analytics and examining our admissions process. With new standards and new interpretations, new strategies and approaches are necessary. We are committed to doing everything that is required to achieve student success.

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