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Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Tamanaha: 14 Law Schools With Attrition Rates >20% May Fail Accreditation Standard 501(b) (Admitting Students Capable Of Passing The Bar)

Tamanaha (2017)TaxProf Blog op-ed:  14 Law Schools With Attrition Rates >20% May Not Be In Compliance With Accreditation Standard 501(b) Because They Are Admitting Students Who Are Not Capable Of Passing The Bar, by Brian Tamanaha (Washington University):  

ABA Accreditation Standard 501(b):
A law school shall only admit applicants who appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.

Interpretation 501-3:
A law school having a cumulative non-transfer attrition rate above 20 percent for a class creates a rebuttable presumption that the law school is not in compliance with the Standard.

This interpretation was adopted to prevent schools from admitting large numbers of unqualified students, collecting tuition, then failing them out. In particular, the concern motivating the new interpretation was that law schools in danger of violating bar passage standard 316 might protect their bar pass rate by dismissing students they perceive to be a high risk of failing the bar. The term “cumulative non-transfer attrition” means schools must keep track of each admitted class and count every student who is dismissed at any time thereafter (including the second and third year).

The 509 reports indicate that 14 law schools have run afoul of interpretation 501-3, thus incurring a presumption that they have violated Standard 501(b):

2017 ABA 509 Reports

Law School

% 1L Attrition

# Students

# Minority Students

Minority Student
% 1L Attrition

Liberty

20.3%

13

1

8%

Widener-Delaware

21.7%

35

15

43%

John Marshall (Atlanta)

21.9%

40

25

62%

Lincoln Memorial

22.2%

14

5

36%

Western State

22.4%

30

18

60%

Capital

23.0%

29

11

38%

California-Western

24.4%

56

27

46%

Southwestern

24.8%

69

32

46%

Florida Coastal

25.7%

76

35

46%

Arizona Summit

27.2%

47

29

62%

Golden Gate

30.5%

46

35

76%

Widener-Pennsylvania

32.7%

35

13

37%

Thomas Jefferson

37.2%

73

53

73%

N. Carolina Central

37.7%

69

57

83%

To put these numbers in context, consider the attrition rates at most law schools:  at 50 law schools attrition is between 0% and 2%; at 47 law schools attrition is between 2% and 5.1%; and at 50 law schools attrition is between 5.1% and 9.9%.

Needless to say, the schools on this list are substantial outliers, which provides a strong basis for the presumption that they are violating Standard 501(b).

In addition to the percentage attrition, I have also provided the total number of students who attritted, followed by the number of attritted students who were minorities, and the percentage minority students represent of attritted students.

Most of these law schools are attritting significant numbers of minority students.  This information is essential because a number of these schools justify their lax admissions practices as a way of providing minority students an opportunity to become lawyers.  In reality, many of them do not graduate, with little to show for this opportunity other than significant debt.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2018/01/tamanaha-14-law-schools-with-attrition-rates-20-may-fail-accreditation-standard-501b-admitting-stude.html

Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

Once more with feeling. The ratio of practitioners to annual degree awards for aspirant entrants varies some from one profession to another. That metric tends, however, to cluster around 22.5:1. For the legal profession, that ratio is 15:1. Other than divinity schools, you'd be hard put to find a set of professional schools for which that ratio is lower. You need to cut the number of JD degrees awarded each year by about 1/3. The question is how to get there from here.

Posted by: Art Deco | Jan 3, 2018 2:10:31 PM

Around 60 to 70 percent of law graduates work as lawyers. That's not as high as the percent of MDs working as doctors, but it's substantially higher than the percent of PhDs or Masters degree holders working in a job closely related to what they studied.

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/04/bad-job-market-phds/479205/
Even in STEM
http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2014/07/employment_rates_for_stem_ph_d_s_it_s_a_stagnant_job_market_for_young_scientists.html

Posted by: employment | Jan 5, 2018 1:23:59 PM

Our Very Stable Genius friend believes that job outcomes, as poor as they are, should somehow invalidate the need to comply with accreditation standards – standards that are already so lax and ill-enforced that the ABA nearly lost its accreditation powers last year. I trust most other readers can readily see through such pathetic red herring arguments.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 7, 2018 9:30:09 AM

Job outcomes were exceptional for law school graduates last year. According to the NALP statistics, over 90% of law school graduates were employed or pursuing advanced degrees. JDs are also more likely to participate in the labor force compared to non-JDs. Many students do not attend law school to practice law. Many attend law school to pursue careers in business and politics. In fact, many non-legal employers pay law school graduates tens of thousands of dollars more per year than they pay similar bachelor’s degree holders.* Anticompetitive policies proposed by UNE would prevent many disadvantaged students from obtaining well paying jobs.

*http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2017/09/the-law-school-monopoly-myth-michael-simkovic.html

Posted by: Actually | Jan 8, 2018 7:08:37 PM

Actually red herring arguments about employment outcomes have no bearing whatsoever on whether law schools are meeting accreditation standards regarding admissions and other matters. Res ipsa loquitur, which I believe is Latin for "are you really this dumb?"

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 8, 2018 11:33:05 PM

Can we force actually/wrong to use a consistent username and stop with the copypasta? Actually you might want to look up a self selected sample before you start bloviating about the wonderful value of a law school degree. Given the evidence we have on signalling, it is not clear at all the degrees confer anything of value from a skills prospective. In fact, a basic iq test in the 6th grade would be just as illuminating for employers without years of opportunity loss and hundreds of thousands in debt.

Posted by: The Prince | Jan 9, 2018 6:29:15 AM

"Job outcomes were exceptional for law school graduates last year."

Dear very stable genius, the entire point of this article is that 20% to 40% of students at these schools are being shown the door. They. Aren't. Graduating.

Your. Study. Is. Absolutely. Irrelevant. To. This. Discussion.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 9, 2018 11:19:29 AM

UNE,
Thanks for pointing out the obvious, which somehow escaped "employment," "actually" "data," and all the obvious pseudonyms by the same law professor commenting on taxprof. Assertions about "job outcomes for law graduates" have nothing to do with students who leave law school without graduating.

Posted by: Brian Tamanaha | Jan 10, 2018 4:28:06 PM

Professor Tamanaha: Thank you. Thank you for refusing to capitulate and remaining intellectually honest despite the nasty attacks you've undoubtedly faced since "Failing Law Schools" by those who'd prefer you to remain silent. Your, and others', objective work in exposing rampant abuses in higher education is so very important and needed.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 13, 2018 10:36:11 AM