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Liberty University now has an accredited law school.
The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates voted Monday afternoon in Chicago to grant the law school provisional accreditation.
Provisional accreditation means that the law school is in substantial compliance with ABA standards and has a reliable plan to achieve full accreditation within three years.
Monday’s vote puts LU’s law school on the fast track to full compliance.
The 18-month-old law school is not eligible for full accreditation until the end of its second year.
“To achieve provisional accreditation within 18 months of the first entering class is virtually unprecedented,” said the Rev. Jerry Falwell, LU’s co-founder and current chancellor.
Falwell said Monday’s vote was the second most important news he’s received in the history of the 35-year-old university.
The most important vote was when the overall university was accredited in 1980.
The LU law school has the distinction of being one of a handful of law schools nationwide at predominantly Christian universities.
LU’s law school is now one of eight accredited in Virginia.
Law School Dean Bruce Green was in Chicago to witness the House of Delegates vote.
“We were very encouraged and gratified at the ABA’s action,” he said. “We’re particularly pleased that our students can now take the bar exams of their choice. It comes at the end of a very long and serious effort by the university to meet each of the ABA standards. It is great to have those efforts by the university validated by ABA.”
At the law school, many students learned of the ABA’s decision from Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Jeffrey Tuomala.
“We jumped from our seats and applauded,” said Jeff Bradley, a second-year law student. “It was a happy moment. To practice law in any state, you must graduate from an accredited law school.”
With that weighing on their minds, Bradley, 31, and others entered LU’s law school last year with hopes that accreditation would come by the end of their third year.
The law school is scheduled to graduate its first class in May 2007.
“It was difficult to go to a school without accreditation,” he said. “But I knew this is where I wanted to be.”
Bradley, an University of Georgia graduate, said he’d been disappointed by other law schools he visited.
“Here, there is still a connection between what is right and wrong and the law,” he said.
Teresa Gordon, another second-year student from Florida, said she had been excited most of Monday waiting for the news.
“We had a lot on the line,” she said. “In a lot of ways this was an act of great faith for those who came here the first year. We have enthusiasm and thankfulness for what God has done for us.”
Andy Fowler, 26, of Phoenix, said he was “ecstatic” about the ABA accreditation.
“I’m just floating on a cloud,” he said. “The school has done it a lot faster than I thought it would.”