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

Monday, December 26, 2016

More On The July 2016 California Bar Exam

California (2016)Continuing my coverage of the July 2016 California bar exam (links below):

David Frakt, Some Thoughts on the California Bar Exam:

2.  LSAT scores matter — if you look at the pass rates, with a couple of notable exceptions, they track the selectivity of the school in terms of LSAT scores and UGPA of the entering class of 2013.  In the chart below, I compare the LSAT profiles of the entering class of 2013 with the pass rate on the July 2016 bar. ...  17 of 21 schools had a bar pass ranking within 2 places of their LSAT rank. Only one school noticeably outperformed its predictors, Cal Western, which outperformed four law schools with higher LSAT scores. Three law schools noticeably underperformed, UC Hastings, which was surpassed by five law schools with students with weaker entrance credentials, and San Francisco and Chapman which were outperformed by three schools with lower LSATs.

3. These results place a number of school in jeopardy of failing to meet the proposed new ABA standard of 75% of graduates passing the bar within two years of graduation.  Law School Transparency estimates that a school will need above a 60% first time pass rate to be reasonably assured of hitting 75% within two years.  Given the quality of their students, Chapman, at 57%, has a good shot of making it, if they can maintain their repeater passing rate of 52%. UC Hastings, at 51%, also could still make it. With the quality of students they admitted, they should be able to sustain their repeater pass rate of 48%.  However, the math does not favor the bottom seven schools making it to 75% within 2 years, at least in California, assuming California maintains the current level of difficulty on the exam.

6. Once again, my LSAT score risk bands (reproduced below for your convenience) have been validated. ...

156-180           Minimal Risk
153-155           Low Risk
150-152           Modest Risk
147-149           High Risk
145-146           Very High Risk
120-144           Extreme Risk

Jacob Gershman (Wall Street Journal Law Blog), Graduates of California-Accredited Law Schools Struggle to Pass Bar Exam:

The passage rate for test takers from American Bar Association-approved schools dropped to 54% from 60% the year before. In the case of a half-dozen of those schools, more than 60% of graduates who took the exam for the first time failed it. A pass rate below 40% may seem lousy, but in California’s legal education universe, low is relative.

The state is home to more than a dozen law schools that aren’t approved by the ABA but are accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California. It’s not surprising that students from these schools perform worse than their ABA-approved peers. ... But the rock-bottom numbers coming out of some of these schools is striking.

Take, for example, Lincoln Law School of San Jose. A total of 26 graduates from the school took the July bar exam. None of them passed, according to the state bar data. ... The picture wasn’t much prettier at Pacific Coast University Law School in Long Beach. Of the 69 graduates from the school who sat for the July bar exam, 4% of them passed. The passage rate for the 63 test-takers from John F. Kennedy University College of Law in the Bay Area was 6%. At Trinity Law School in Santa Ana, which had 109 graduates take the exam, the pass rate was 12%.

Together, 267 students from those schools took the exam, and all but 20 of them flunked the bar, according to the data. Overall, the passage rate for graduates of non-ABA approved, state-accredited California schools was 12.9%, down from 13.4% the year before.

Robert Anderson (Pepperdine), More Interesting California Bar Tidbits:

Of note in the otherwise dismal July 2016 California bar exam results is that San Joaquin College of Law in Clovis, California held its own against several ABA-accredited schools on the bar exam. It tied three ABA schools in bar passage rate (31%) and beat one by a wide margin. ... Lincoln Law School of Sacramento, another school not accredited by the ABA, also did quite well (31%), considering the headwinds such a school faces in the California legal market. ... It is likely that these two schools that do not have ABA accreditation have significantly stronger graduates than a dozen or more ABA-accredited schools in other states.

Derek Muller (Pepperdine), California's Move to a Two-Day Bar Exam Might Affect Some Schools More Than Others:

I was among the first to discuss California's planned move from a three-day bar exam to a two-day bar exam. The first two-day exam will occur in the July 2017 administration.

The old three-day model weighted the Multistate Bar Exam component (the 6-hour multiple choice test) at about 1/3 of the overall score, and the other two days of essays as about 2/3 of the overall score. When the bar studied the issues, it found little difference in assessing aptitute or in scoring between a 1/3-2/3 model and a two-day bar where both sections would be weighted roughly equally (as most states do).

That's true at the macro level. For individual test-takers, of course, that can vary wildly. And even at the school level, we may see somewhat noticeable differences between the MBE scores and the essay scores. ...  I flagged four schools that might see the biggest changes--San Diego's for the better; and Irvine, San Francisco, and Thomas Jefferson for the worse.

Northern California Record, Former Law Student Ends Life After Failed Bar Exam Amidst Overall Low Passing Scores for the State:

University of California, Hastings College of Law staff said counseling services are available for students after the recent suicide of a former student following his negative bar-exam results.

Brian Christopher Grauman took his own life after failing a test that, on average, only about 51 percent of first-time takers pass, according to And while there is help for law students who are under stress, there is hope that there will be more assistance for alumni in the future. ...

The issue with lower-tier law schools, [Above the Law's Joe] Patrice said, is that students are faced with higher stress because they are putting in more money and are worried about not getting a job later. At a higher-tier law school, there is more emphasis on services, and students are banking on the idea that they will be more financially secure in the long run. “The simple fact of the matter is that today's law students have a lot more to worry about than their peers who graduated in the past,” Zaretsky said. “A law degree is no longer considered a golden ticket thanks to the recession's effects on the legal-job market.”

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