Monday, July 18, 2011
[The ABA] is trying to reconcile the legal profession's need for greater diversity with its desire to push law schools to better prepare students to pass the bar. For the second time in four years, it is considering raising the minimum bar-passage-rate requirement as part of a comprehensive review of law school accreditation standards. ...
The hope is that higher standards would push schools with lower passage rates to invest more in academic support and bar preparation. ... They also would serve a consumer-protection function, assuring law students a reasonable expectation of passing the bar.
The ABA has already signaled that it takes bar-passage rates seriously. It revoked provisional accreditation from the University of La Verne College of Law in Ontario, Calif., in June because of the school's low bar-passage rates. In 2009, a scant 34% of La Verne students passed the California bar examination on the first try, and the school's first-time bar-passage rate was 53% in 2010 — improved, but still not good enough, according to the ABA.
Applying a bright-line bar-passage standard is a fairly new idea for the ABA. Before 2008, the ABA spelled out no specific bar-passage minimum. Instead, it enforced what was called the "70/10 Rule": At least 70% of the school's first-time bar takers had to pass the exam in the school's home state. In the alternative, the first-time bar-pass rate could be no lower than 10% below the average of other ABA-accredited schools in that state.
The U.S. Department of Education, which has authorized the ABA to be the national accreditor of law schools, asked for a clearer standard in 2007. After protracted wrangling, the ABA adopted a requirement that at least 75% of a law school's graduates pass the bar exam in at least three of the past five years. Schools can also meet the standard if their first-time bar-passage rate is no more than 15% below other ABA schools in the same state during three of the past five years. The 15% requirement is intended to level the playing field across states, given that passage rates vary widely depending on jurisdiction. The outcome was a compromise, representing a minimum standard higher than what diversity advocates wanted but lower than the initial proposal. ...
The new proposal would require that at least 80% of graduates pass the bar in three of the past five years, or that first-time bar-passage rates be no more than 10% below other schools in the same state — bringing the standards closer to the test used before 2008.
- The Faculty Lounge, A License to Exploit Law Students?
- The Faculty Lounge, More on Sloan on ABA, Diversity and 301-6