If you have been considering law school, you have likely heard the term ‘ABA approved law schools’. ABA is an acronym for the American Bar Association, which is a professional bar association that promotes high quality education for legal professions through accreditation of law schools. Currently, there are nearly 200 ABA approved law schools in the U.S. that can confer the Juris Doctorate (law) degree on its students. There are less than fifty law schools in the U.S. that are not ABA approved law schools.
Why Does it Matter?
You may be wondering why it matters if a law school is approved by the ABA. The answer is simple. All states in the United States, with the exception of California, require that practicing lawyers have obtained an education from ABA approved law schools. Schools that are not approved by the ABA only appeal to those students who will be practicing law in the state of California, or who don’t plan to practice law but just want a background in law for another career.
What Makes California Different?
California is the only state in the Union that accredits its own law school programs, which are known as CALS schools. These schools are approved by the Committee of Bar Examiners. California allows students of non-ABA approved law schools to sit for the bar exam to become licensed to practice law. Of course, the student would only be licensed to practice law in California, but for those that live in the state and don’t have any plans of relocating elsewhere – this may not be an issue. Nonetheless, there are also ABA approved law schools in California.
Simply put, applying to ABA approved law schools makes the most sense for the large majority of students in the U.S. An education from an ABA accredited school will qualify you to take the bar exam and practice law in any state that you choose.