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

Friday, December 16, 2016

California Law School Deans Blast State Bar's Historically Low Pass Rate On July 2016 Exam

California (2016)Following up on my previous posts (links below) on the July 2016 California bar exam carnage: several California law school deans have written op-eds criticizing the California State Bar for the historically low pass rate (43% overall, 62% for graduates of California's 21 ABA-approved law schools):

  • Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean, UC-Irvine), Does the Bar Even Measure the Right Skills?: "An even more important question than why the results were so low this year is whether the bar exam is even measuring the skills that show a person is likely to be a competent attorney."
  • David L. Faigman (Acting Dean, UC-Hastings), It's Not the State Bar's Responsibility to Control Lawyer Supply: "The issue of whether there are too many lawyers is a fair one to ask, but it is not the California Bar's job to control that supply. Such a protectionist motive, if that is the bar's intent, presents substantial policy and, possibly, legal concerns."
  • Stephen C. Ferruolo (Dean, San Diego), Time to Adopt the Uniform Bar Exam:  "It is time for California to end the carnage and waste by adopting the Uniform Bar Exam and setting a pass score that is not punitive or protectionist but a fair and reasonable test of minimum competency."
  • Kevin Johnson (Dean, UC-Davis), Pass Rates Can't Improve If Standards Are Silently Being Raised: "One might expect bar passage improvements in light of the fact that many law schools are expanding the academic support and services available to law students. But we can't improve if grading standards are being changed behind closed doors."
  • Jennifer L. Mnookin (Dean, UCLA), California Grads Are Not Less Qualified: "In fact, on the multi-state portion of the exam, California test takers - even including the roughly 7 percent of exam-takers from non-ABA accredited schools - had a mean score several points above the national average."
  • Deanell Reece Tacha (Dean, Pepperdine), Bar Exam May Actually Disserve Rather Than Serve the Public Interest: "It just cannot be that a single exam is the answer when it adds astronomically to the costs of legal education and erects a barrier to entry to the profession." 
  • Michael Waterstone (Dean, Loyola-L.A.), The State Bar Should Help Schools Reach Out to Students Who Failed: "Despite all we do to support our students, like any law school, some of our graduates will not pass the bar on the first try. That is why it is problematic that the State Bar is not providing schools with the names and results of our students."

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

Legal Education | Permalink


We have two groups of static, self-interested baby boomers pitted against each other. Each demanding that the other do the one thing they hate the most, and which has proven near impossible: change. The schools want the Bar Examiners to change the test, or get rid of it. The bar examiners want the schools to shrink size and admit more selectively. The bar examiners will ultimately win this battle because they have nothing to lose. Inertia causes them no harm, and there is nothing the schools can do to force action on their behalf.

Posted by: JM | Dec 16, 2016 6:14:07 AM

"It is time for California to end the carnage"

No, it's time for the Dept. of Education s to stop the carnage by shuttering a good number of law schools. The lack of any sense of responsibility by these deans is disgusting. Not a word about the obvious consequences of the schools' own decisions making in terms of enrolling less qualified students? Three years of training and folks are suddenly failing the same old exam that has been around for ever? Shut.Them.Down.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 16, 2016 7:26:55 AM

It's funny how law profs and deans went for what, a century or more? without complaining about the bar exam. Now that they are taking in less qualified students to keep their coffers flush, however, all of a sudden the bar exam is a horrible, anachronistic, useless, etc. trial. How about that?

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Dec 16, 2016 9:15:45 AM

There have been a lot of critiques and questions raised about the bar exam by law profs and deans over the years.

Posted by: Not so funny | Dec 16, 2016 10:47:53 AM

@Not so funny,

So if I show you law review articles from the 1980's gravely concerned about the spiraling cost of legal education, will that change the conversation around here from *The cost of legal education doesn't matter because IBR plans and questionable wage premium studies?* I didn't think so.

Here you go:

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Dec 16, 2016 9:24:26 PM