Slate: Desperate Law Schools Are Admitting Way Too Many Poorly Qualified Students, by Jordan Weissmann:
As their application numbers collapsed in recent years, a good number of law schools were forced to choose between their academic standards and their finances. With fewer qualified candidates to go around, some decided to shrink their enrollment numbers and forgo a bit of revenue rather than drastically relax their admission criteria. But many others took the path of least resistance, opening their doors to poorly qualified students willing to pay tuition.
As a result, a depressing number of law schools are now filled with students who may simply not belong there. According to a new study released this week by the advocacy group Law School Transparency, there were 37 institutions last year where at least half of all new students scored below a 150 on the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, up from just nine such schools in 2010. Why is that significant? The group argues that students who fail to break the 150 mark face a "serious risk" of eventually failing their state bar exam once they graduate, which would leave them unable to actually practice law. ...
The Law School Transparency report is an attempt to finally set some public standards for the legal academy. Its risk scale was created by former law professor David Frakt, who developed it based on data from students at Western State College of Law, where he was tasked with improving bar passage rates. When Frakt and I spoke on the phone, he broke it down this way for me:
- A "high risk" student, with 147 to 149 on the LSAT, stands a 50 to 60 percent chance of passing the bar exam on his or her first try.
- A "very high risk" student, with a 145 to 146 on the LSAT, has a less than 50 percent chance of passing.
- An "extreme risk student," with a 144 or below, has less than a one-in-three chance of passing. ...
Law School Transparency's report provides other evidence supporting Frakt's findings. The organization convinced an anonymous law school as well the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law to share their bar passage rates by LSAT score. At Sturm, "high risk" students passed the bar 57 percent of the time on their first try. At the anonymous schoool, they passed just 23 percent of the time on their first go, and 58 percent of the time after multiple tries.
Law School Transparency's argument also dovetails with the simple fact that law grads have been passing the bar at shockingly low rates over the last two years. When the trouble first emerged in 2014, many pinned the blame on a software malfunction that left many test-takers unable to load their essays—a somewhat traumatic event dubbed "barmageddon." But this year, passage rates have continued to decline; among students who took the test this past July, scores on the multiple choice section hit their lowest level since 1988. As Bloomberg noted, that may partly be because the exam has added a new section that made it more difficult. But it's starting to look like graduating law students really might just be "less able," as Erica Moeser, head of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, put it last year. ...
What to do about it? ... [S]omeone will need to force law schools' hands. By now, too many have shown they can't be trusted to protect students' interest on their own.
Sacramento Business Journal, Is McGeorge Admitting Too Many Low-Scoring Students?:
At least a quarter of students in the entering class at McGeorge School of Law in 2014 are considered at high risk of not finishing school or passing the state bar exam, a new study shows.
These students scored below 150 on the law school admissions test, according to the Georgia nonprofit called School Transparency. ...
An admissions test score of 150 is generally considered a dividing line between success and failure. The 25th percentile score for entering students at McGeorge last year was was 148. That’s down from 155 in 2010. Half the students came in at 151, down from 158 in 2010. Students at the 151 mark are considered at “modest” risk of not making it at law school or past the bar.