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Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Charlotte Law School Tapes: Dean Drops F-Bombs, Calls Faculty 'Delusional' About Their Power

Charlotte Logo (2016)Following up on Wednesday's post, Charlotte Law School Reopens: 33% Of Students Have Transferred, Prof Says 42% Bar Pass Rate Would Have Been In 20s But For Payments To Students Not To Take Bar:  Charlotte Observer, Recordings Shed Light on Charlotte School of Law’s Methods to Boost Bar Passage:

Last week, WFAE reported that the troubled Charlotte School of Law paid graduates deemed at-risk to delay taking the bar and enroll in a bar preparation course. This program came about a few years ago as it had become the state’s largest law school with the poorest record of graduates passing the bar.

Today, WFAE’s Lisa Worf reports on secret recordings of a law school official that shed light on how much the deferral program inflated bar passage statistics.

About a week before the July 2015 bar, it didn’t look like most Charlotte School of Law graduates would pass the exam. Odessa Alm, the Assistant Dean of Student Success, gathered a small group of professors who served as bar prep coaches.

“You know, if we didn’t have the extended program last time — if we all didn’t work really hard to defer the 21 people that we deferred, our pass rate would have likely been 20-something percent,” she told them.

Instead, in February 2015, 42 percent of Charlotte School of Law graduates passed North Carolina’s bar on their first try. The school often has the lowest pass rate in North Carolina and ranks among the worst in the country. Partly for this reason, Charlotte School of Law came under scrutiny by its accreditor the American Bar Association.

About that time a law school professor secretly recorded Alm. In this particular meeting, Alm was trying to get coaches to impart some urgency on recent graduates. They’d been taking practice exams and it didn’t look good. “When you’re coaching someone and they’re being lazy, do you allow them to be?” [No.] “Okay, so do we tell them if they’re training for some event, do we say, ‘It’s okay. You’re not where you need to be. Keep trying,’” chided Alm. “We’re not cheerleaders. We’re coaches. ‘Get down on the f***ing floor and give me 40. You’re going to run more laps.’ That’s what a coach is. A coach is not a cheerleader.”

At another weekly bar prep meeting around the same time, she struck a similar tone: “It is on with these f***ing mother****ers. I want them to pass the bar and I believe that they can. But they need to get over themselves. They have no understanding of themselves,” said Alm.

Former Charlotte School of Law professor Andrew McAdams was on the receiving end of those pep talks for a year and a half. He was hired to teach Professional Responsibility in the summer of 2014. That’s basically a legal ethics class. But the school also put him to work coaching students and recent grads about to take the bar. “I do recall those meetings and others where that type of language and that level of, um, disdain was expressed. And it made me uncomfortable and I think it made many others uncomfortable as well,” says McAdams.

Many things troubled him during his time at the for-profit Charlotte School of Law where tuition is $44,000. He says most of his colleagues expressed serious concerns, but it was hard to truly understand the extent of the problems. He’d get instructions that didn’t make any sense to him, like encourage struggling graduates to delay taking the bar. ...

McAdams generally told students to take it right away. But he got a lot of pressure to talk with struggling ones about the Path to Success bar deferral program and the $11,200 stipend that went along with it. ... It was also when he began suspecting the school had what he calls a “selfish, ulterior motive” with the bar deferral program.

Charlotte School of Law had come under a lot of pressure to raise bar passage rates. In January 2015, the ABA told school leaders it had reason to believe the school wasn’t demonstrating compliance with ABA standards. And so the school made changes, like toughening the curve. In the recordings, Alm said faculty voted on that. But she says they did not vote on something she called “more controversial and more impactful.” That was adding a mandatory bar passage class in the third year.

“Faculty all across the country are delusional as to what they have the power to do and what they have the power not to do. And, frankly, they don’t have the power to allow our school to shut down because our bar results never improve. Because if they don’t vote for it, then that’s where we’re going to be. So we’re not going to worry about it,” Alm told bar prep coaches.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2017/01/the-charlotte-tapes-dean-drops-f-bombs-calls-faculty-delusional-about-their-power.html

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Comments

The idea that there is any prestige associate with law school is gone. Without context, you would have thought this woman was some principal of a failing school in the Bronx berating her teachers to get their kids to the minimum passing score on the common core tests.

In order of what level of prestige a degree signifies, I would rank law as follows (low to high):

GED
J.D. (third-tier)
Masters of Arts
High School Diploma
Two Year Associates Degree
M.B.A.
Four Year College Degree
P.hd.
M.D.

This means that if you were to ask me, who do you think is smarter, person A with the JD from Charlotte Law, or person B with a terminal degree of a high school diploma, I would opt for person B.

Posted by: jm | Jan 27, 2017 10:43:28 AM

This somehow seems reflective of larger contemporary issues...

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 27, 2017 9:59:42 PM