Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Not So Standard: Legal Ed Section's Council and Law Deans Voice Different Views on Proposal to Link Accreditation to Bar Passage Results, ABA Journal 64-65 (Jan. 2017):
No ABA-accredited law school has ever been out of compliance with a standard regarding bar passage percentages, and that may indicate that the standard is not working well. Although some law school officials support a plan to tighten the standard, others are concerned about what it would mean for diversity—both in schools and in the legal profession—if the proposal is implemented.
Under the proposal approved in late 2016 by the council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, being in compliance with Standard 316 of the section’s law school accreditation standards would require that at least 75 percent of an accredited school’s graduates pass a bar exam within a two-year time period. The ABA House of Delegates is expected to consider the proposal in February at the association’s 2017 midyear meeting in Miami.
The legal education section is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accrediting body for law schools in the United States. The House of Delegates may endorse the section’s changes in the accreditation standards or refer them back to the section for further consideration, but the section council has final authority over the standards.
If the proposal is adopted by the council, sanctions for not meeting the two-year bar passage requirement could ultimately include probation and withdrawal of accreditation, says William Adams, the section’s deputy managing director. The council has not yet determined what class would be the first to be covered by the requirement.
With the current version of Standard 316, there are various ways a law school can be in compliance. One is that at least 75 percent of graduates from the five most recent calendar years have passed a bar exam, or that there is a 75 percent pass rate for at least three of those five years. Also, a school can be in compliance if just 70 percent of its graduates pass the bar at a rate within 15 percentage points of the average first-time bar pass rate for ABA-approved law school graduates in the same jurisdiction for three out of the five most recently completed calendar years.