Supreme Court seeks comments on Purdue law school change
Purdue University’s online Concord Law School could get a boost under a proposed rule change being considered by the Indiana Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court is now accepting comments on an amendment that would allow graduates of the Concord Law School at Purdue University Global to take the Indiana bar exam.
Currently in Indiana, only students from schools that are eligible for American Bar Association accreditation can take the Indiana bar exam.
Although Concord is accredited by the State Bar of California, it is not eligible for ABA accreditation because it is a completely online law school.
Purdue drafted a change to the Rules of Admission and Discipline that will allow graduates of non-ABA accredited, Indiana-based online law schools approved by a state, regional, or national accrediting agency to sit for the Indiana bar exam.
Concord is currently the only law school that falls within this category, according to a working group that evaluated the matter.
Purdue contends that Indiana will create more opportunities for Hoosiers who do not live near nor have the flexibility to attend a campus-based, part-time law school. Purdue also argues that expanding legal-education opportunities may increase the availability of legal services in underserved communities throughout the state.
The 10-member working group included judges, professors, lawyers and was chaired by Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Nancy H. Vaidik.
“After hours of witness testimony and debate, the Working Group was unable to reach consensus on Purdue’s proposal,” the report said.
But it did lay out a summary of pros and cons, as well as 16 recommended pre-conditions for approval.
Purdue agreed with the majority of the suggestions, such as requiring Concord Law School to change its name to Purdue University Global Law School. This change will maintain Purdue’s incentive to devote substantial resources to the law school because its reputation for academic excellence will be on the line. And Concord would more visibly be seen as “part” of Purdue, the working group said.
Other accepted preconditions include initially limiting the number of students in a class and making continued approval of Concord Law School contingent upon a 75% bar passage rate for its graduates who sit for the Indiana bar exam within two years of graduation.
Purdue pushed back on two recommendations. The first would require students applying for admission to Concord to take the LSAT or another exam that is shown to predict whether a student will pass the bar.
Its response said Concord’s own admissions exam is nearly as accurate as the LSAT and more accurate than the GRE.
“If the Court requires that we mandate that students intending to practice in Indiana take the LSAT or GRE, we will of course abide by any such requirement. However, both Concord’s admissions exam and the exam prep materials it makes available are free for prospective students, which is not the case for either the LSAT or GRE,” Purdue said.
Another suggestion was to require newly enrolled students who intend to sit for the Indiana bar exam to attend a one-week orientation or instructional session on campus at Purdue University-West Lafayette.
Purdue said it is concerned that this would be a burden for some students, including those who might currently be living elsewhere, have physical disabilities for whom travel is extremely challenging; or students who simply can’t afford travel and hotel costs, missing work or childcare arrangements.
“We would suggest that Concord offer a weekend-long in-person orientation, and while we would strongly recommend that students attend in person, we would not want to penalize any student who was unable to do so by refusing to let them continue in the program,” Purdue said.
The deadline to submit feedback online to the Indiana Supreme Court is noon on April 21.
The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.