The American Lawyer: The ABA Raises the Wrong Bar, by Steven J. Harper (Adjunct Professor, Northwestern; author, The Lawyer Bubble):
[I]n October, ... the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar recommended a rule change that it thought was monumental. It's actually far too little coming far too late. The new rule would require at least 75 percent of a law school's graduates to pass a state bar exam within two years of receiving their degrees. The current standard requires a 75 percent pass rate within five years. Since 2000, only four law schools have faced difficulty under the current standard, and all were restored to full accreditation.
Plummeting national bar passage rates coupled with growing student debt for degrees of dubious value are the culmination of a dysfunctional market in legal education. That dysfunction is taking a cruel toll on a generation vulnerable to exploitation by elders who know better. Sooner or later, we'll all pay the price.
The ABA's latest misfire toward a remedy misses the key point: Even passing the bar doesn't mean getting a law job. Within 10 months of graduation, less than 60 percent of 2015 graduates obtained full-time long-term employment requiring bar passage. Compared with the class of 2014, the number of such positions declined by 10 percent (from 26,248 to 23,687). The total number of 2015 graduates: 40,000.
Students attending marginal schools bear the greatest burden. Their schools use a business model that relies on federal student loan dollars to fill classrooms. Because schools have no accountability for their graduates' poor employment outcomes, they are free to dip ever deeper into the well of unqualified applicants. ...
As educators rely on student debt to keep their law schools operating, they're getting paid, regardless of how their graduates fare in the job market. That frames the issue with which the ABA should be grappling but continues to dismiss: Marginal law schools are unable to place most of their graduates in full-time long-term bar passage-required jobs.
Solving that problem requires schools to have financial skin in the game. Here's one suggestion: tie the availability of a student's federal loan dollars to a law school's employment outcomes. That would create accountability that no dean or administrator currently possesses. And they sure don't want it.
The ABA is institutionally incapable of embracing the change required to create a functional market in legal education. Vested interests are too embedded. The clout of the marginal schools is too great.
[T]he people running law schools view students as revenue streams for which the schools will never have any financial accountability. The federal government backs the loans; educational debt survives personal bankruptcy; many in a generation of young would-be attorneys begin adulthood in a deep, six-figure financial hole.