Thursday, August 02, 2007

More on the ABA's proposed new standard of bar passage rates for law schools

Here are some articles worth reading by anyone who cares about Appalachian School of Law or the law school at Liberty or Regent or any new(er) law school in a state where there are several:

ABA Proposal Threatens Diversity In Legal Education
, 7/3/07 - "As the Patton Study showed, the proposal will put almost all of the diversity-friendly schools out-of-compliance and worsen the state of minority enrollment."

ABA Moves to Tighten Bar Standards: What it Means
, 7/6/07 - "Because of the explosive growth in the corporate law sector, large number of top law students from across the country take the New York, Virginia, and California bar exams. Further, this trend will only become more pronounced in the coming years. This means that lower-ranked schools in these jurisdictions (or bordering states, who will likely be affected by the 20% graduates/70% passage rule) will be tilting into ever-greater headwinds."

The Bush Department of Education Tries to Gut Grutter Below the Radar Screen, 7/11/07 - "Officially, the Department of Education and the ABA (under pressure) are concerned about the quality of education, but this is pretty clearly also a means of limiting affirmative action at non-elite law schools. (The bar passage rates at elite law schools are sufficiently high that admissions policies would be largely unaffected by the new rule.) Students with weaker numerical qualifications coming into law school fail the bar in larger numbers than those with stronger ones; by requiring higher bar passage rates at the back end, the new standard would limit the ability of law schools to admit students with weaker numbers (but with other qualifications, including their contributions to student body diversity) at the front end."

ABA Proposes Bar Pass Rate Standard
, 7/31/07 - "(1) The first slightly odd thing about this rule is that the first prong compares the school to all test takers from ABA approved schools, including out-of-state test takers. I’d like to know how out-of-state test takers do compared to in-state. In Florida they do about average; but what about, say, New York and California? Do the many out-of-staters make things easier or harder for local schools? [See (3) below for a discussion of whether a bright-line makes sense.]

(2) For law schools on the cusp, this will create real pressure to do bad things.

(A) They will have an even greater incentive to play it safe on admissions. We know that the one thing the LSAT predicts well is your ability to take tests, and the bar exam is a test. This rule will inevitably work against people with lower LSATs, and that means disproportionately against people whose families have less money and who are not white.

(B) Alternately, if these schools want to keep taking risks in admissions, they’re going to have to flunk out more students in order to only graduate those with a high probability of passing the bar. The downside of this policy is a “One L” atmosphere: schools become much more stressful, meaner, places — which may not be conducive to learning.

(C) A correlative pressure will be to teach even more to the bar; and while the bar arguably may test stuff most lawyers should know, nobody could seriously argue that a three-year bar course will tend to produce good lawyers.

(D) Lastly, for schools right on the knife edge, there will be enormous pressure to manage who takes the bar by having weak students delay test-taking: stuff all your at-risk students into one calendar year, and thus improve your outcomes in the alternate year. As a result, I predict an increase in the annual variation in the bar pass rate scores of schools in the at-risk zone.

(3) Some law schools could be in real trouble. I have absolutely no idea what the second and third time pass rates look like; it may be that enough people make it eventually so that the 80% within three tries within three years rule saves schools that would fail the first test. But I rather doubt this is true in all cases. (The conventional wisdom is that anyone can fail once but if you don’t pass on second try your chances of ever passing are quite low.)"

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