Wednesday, June 26, 2013
National Law Journal, ABA Proposal Alarms Law School Diversity Advocates:
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
A proposal to tighten the ABA's bar passage requirement for law schools hasn't gone over well with some advocates for diversity in the legal profession. The committee updating the ABA's accreditation standards has received letters from numerous faculty and diversity organizations expressing concern since the plan appeared to enjoy widespread support among committee members in late April. The proposal would raise the minimum bar-pass rate from 75 to 80 percent, among other changes.
The National Bar Association — the largest association of black lawyers and judges — on June 20 passed a resolution opposing the proposal. The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) and the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) sent a joint letter to the committee warning the changes would have "dire consequences on law schools with racially diverse student populations." Additionally, several diversity-focused groups within the ABA have written in opposition. ...
The proposal's opponents essentially argue that a tougher bar passage requirement would dissuade law schools for accepting students with lower undergraduate grades and Law School Admission Test scores — shutting out a larger percentage of minority students, who on average score lower on standardized tests. Those concerns have not fallen on deaf ears, said Jeffrey Lewis, chairman of the ABA committee and a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law. ...
The committee hopes to make its position paper available to the public before its July 12 meeting, when it is scheduled to discuss the bar passage proposal. The idea is to make the existing standard more straightforward and encourage law schools to offer robust academic support to students likely to struggle with the bar exam.
Under the new rule, at least 80 percent of a law school's graduates would have to pass the bar exam within two years of graduation. The existing rule requires that a minimum of 75 percent of graduates pass within five years.
- Law Schools in Jeopardy of Failing ABA's New Objective Bar Passage Accreditation Standard (Feb. 4, 2008)
- The Impact of Higher Bar Passage Requirements on Law School Diversity (July 18, 2011)
- ABA to Toughen Bar Passage Accreditation Standard (July 17, 2012)
- ABA Comments on Look-Back Periods and Eventual Bar Passage Rates (Aug. 2, 2012)
- ABA to Toughen Bar Passage Requirement (May 1, 2013)