TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, February 8, 2008

ABA Issues FAQ on Proposed 75% Bar Passage Accreditation Standard

I previously blogged (here and here) the ABA's proposed new objective bar passage standard for law school accreditation. The Consultant on Legal Education to the ABA has released a detailed FAQ on proposed Interpretation 301-6:

What does the new proposal say? Under the proposed Interpretation 301-6, a school can demonstrate compliance by meeting any one of three tests, two of which are framed in terms of ultimate bar examination pass rates and one in terms of first-time bar examination pass rates.

Ultimate bar examination passage rates: In response to comments we received that some law school graduates, particularly students of color, pass the bar examination but not necessarily on their first try, two of the tests for demonstrating compliance are explicitly tied to ultimate (as opposed to first-time) pass rates. Generally stated:

  • at least 75% of a school’s graduates must ultimately pass the bar examination over the most recent five calendar years; or
  • that, in each of three of the most recent five calendar years, at least 75% must ultimately pass.

First-time taker bar examination passage rates: The proposed Interpretation also permits a school to demonstrate compliance through first-time bar examination passage rates. In three or more of the five most recently completed calendar years, the school’s annual first-time bar passage rate in the jurisdictions reported by the school must be no more than 15 points below the average first-time bar passage rates for graduates of ABA-approved law schools taking the bar examination in the same jurisdictions.

In my earlier post, I included tables listing law schools that were close to these 75%/15% thresholds in a one-year snapshot of data.  As I explained in the post, and several commentators pointed out, proposed Interpretation 301-6 measures bar passage rates over a five-year period.  Schools that fall below the 75%/15% thresholds in any one year thus can (and often do) easily meet Interpretation 301-6 when measured over the requisite five-year period, especially when the differences between bar passage rates for first-time and non-first-time test-takers are factored in (which they are not in the one-year data). And in any event schools that are out of compliance with the 75%/15% thresholds for the five-year period can obtain an extension upon a showing of good cause.  I apologize to any schools that feel unfairly maligned by my prior post's use of the incomplete one-year data.

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Some questions still linger:

1. Should schools with consistently low pass rates that flunk out a large portion of their class by graduation (while retaining tuition paid) be accredited in the first place?

2. Does the injustice of the above outweigh the free market arguments that these schools likely make?

3. Is the profession hurt by the proliferation of law schools?

4. Are the salaries paid to law professors at the lower ranked schools appropriate in light of the cost of tuition and minimal value of the schools' degree?

Posted by: Questions | Feb 8, 2008 1:42:03 PM

Prof. Caron:
I'm pleased to see that you made the corrections--after various schools had contacted you. I would have been more pleased if you had done a responsible job the first time in presenting your observations. I teach at one of the schools who have been trying to make progress on the bar, and we have recently done quite well for the past couple of exams. Your initial presentation of the ABA's standards did not help to offer an accurate picture of our successes and I fear the worry that you needlessly provoked among our alumni, students, and prospective students.

Posted by: Anon This Time | Feb 8, 2008 4:44:43 PM

It is good of you to destroy the traces of your ineptitude. How horrible that those law schools ganged up on you by pointing out so minor an error as applying a multi-year test to single-year data points! After all, we in tax law know that one doesn't need to strictly apply regulatory language to escape penalties.

And t was delightful to see that your original list went to the trouble of prominently noting the minority rates of the schools you named so bravely. After all, it's just information, and you weren't suggesting anything at all by including it with your deep analysis, I am sure.

Posted by: Bored | Feb 9, 2008 4:20:59 PM

The world would be much better if every one of those schools you listed in your original post were closed forever. Those schools are horrible, and many students graduate from those institutions of higher learning (if you can call them that) with high debt loads and no jobs. The students at those schools would be better off working in a different industry. The deans of those schools should be sued for fraud--they actually try to convince employers that students from their schools are smart, and they convince the students that attend their schools that they will somehow become good lawyers or get good jobs.

Posted by: Art. III Clerk | Feb 15, 2008 5:26:54 AM