Paul L. Caron

Sunday, November 15, 2015

L.A. Times: Deans Of Some California Law Schools Say Low LSAT Scores Do Not Predict Bar Exam Failure

CaliforniaLos Angeles Times, As Fewer Californians Pass the Bar, Are LSAT Scores an Early Indicator of Success?:

Already faced with one of the lowest bar passage rates in the country, California students and academics shouldn't expect those statistics to improve over the next several years, according to a new study that examines the link between standardized test scores and bar passage rates.

In July 2014, only 48.6% of test-takers passed the California bar; nearly 8,500 took it. Historically, the state has one of the hardest to pass bar exams in the nation, but last summer was the first time in almost a decade that the success rate fell below half.

"It's not going to get better," said Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, the advocacy group that conducted the study. "If anything, it's going to get worse."

Research has found that the LSAT is a key predictor of bar performance. But some school administrators dispute those findings, saying results on the 180-point LSAT don't necessarily indicate success on the bar.

McEntee is pessimistic because the number of California schools that admit a high number of students who scored below 150 on their law school admission test is growing.

Eight [California Western, Golden Gate, La Verne, McGeorge, Southwestern, Thomas Jefferson, Western State, Wittier] out of California's 21 law schools have recently admitted classes that have a "high," "very high" or "extreme" number of students who have a poor chance of passing the bar, based on their LSAT scores, the study showed.

Chart 5

Nationwide, about a third of the 204 nationally accredited law schools had similar incoming law classes.

The study defined high-risk students as those who scored below 150 on the LSAT. Law schools are required to disclose these test scores for incoming students as well as bar passage rates. ...

LST 10In California, three schools were given the highest, "extreme," risk rating: the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, the University of La Verne College of Law and Whittier Law School.

About 33% of all Thomas Jefferson graduates who took the July 2014 bar passed. The school charges $44,900 annually for full-time students, and the median LSAT score of the most recent first-year class was 145, according to disclosure forms. ...

Slightly more Whittier Law School graduates than Thomas Jefferson alumni passed the July 2014 bar, according to state bar data. Tuition at Whittier is $42,400 for full-time students, and the median LSAT score is 146. Penelope Bryan, Whittier's dean, said in an email that the school hires a statistician each year to review alumni bar results to see whether there are any factors that lead to failure. "The LSAT score has no predictive value for the success of Whittier Law School students on the bar exam," Bryan said. Instead, Bryan said, students' performance in the school's bar prep courses is a better predictor of whether they pass the test. "The claim that students with lower LSAT scores have no hope of passing a bar exam is patently false," she said.

Gilbert A. Holmes, dean of the University of La Verne law school, said the study was too narrowly focused. "For them to think that the LSAT is a predictor when there's [up to] four years of intervention by a law school is more than a little bit misleading," Holmes said. About 42% of La Verne graduates passed the 2014 bar, slightly below the state average, but two-thirds of first-time test-takers passed, about five points above the average. Holmes said LSAT scores aren't a predictor of whether a La Verne student will pass the bar. "We have three years to work with them," he said. La Verne graduates who took the July 2014 bar and scored a 156 or higher on their LSAT passed the test at approximately the same rate as students with 150 or lower on their standardized test, Holmes said.

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Also, until Law School Transparency broke up their racket, La Verne was charging over 40,000$ per year.

Posted by: terry malloy | Nov 19, 2015 6:39:40 PM

Tuition at Chapman: $46,591

You were saying Steve?

Posted by: terry malloy | Nov 19, 2015 6:34:39 PM

From Wikipedia, Steve. "For the 2013-2014 academic year, Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years is $204,612." Fine, it did away with discounting and went to flat pricing. One of your Wikipedia sockpuppets should probably update that part of the Wikipedia page. You don't like LST. But that's still a hefty number for a school that barely managed ABA accreditation. And, it's entirely unclear, to me anyway, what point you're trying to make with Laverne.

Posted by: oh lord | Nov 19, 2015 5:40:47 PM

This has been an epic battle of diametrically opposed positions of "pro transparency in employment data" versus "pro deceptive and fraudulent employment data". The scoreboard here is enrollment numbers. Clearly, the transparency camp is winning. I have been surprised at how many soldiers of the opposing camp continue on in battlemode when the battle seems over, seemingly unaware that "the gig is up." I guess this just tells us that LST will continue to be needed indefinitely going forward to police exploitative behavior.

Posted by: anon. 25 | Nov 19, 2015 2:54:43 PM

Tuition at LaVerne: 25K
Tuition at Harvard: 57K
And of course Harvard has a multicentury legacy that enables it to spend far more per student (probably more than double sticker tuition).

Posted by: Steve Diamond | Nov 19, 2015 12:50:11 PM

I think Steve Diamond is completely wrong in his 10:27 comment, and is very likely being disingenuous. The very point of LST and other 'critics' is the NOT all JDs are created equal, and that there are indeed significant differences between a Chapman degree and a Harvard degree, or, say, a Santa Clara degree and a Stanford degree.

In fact, that is one of the critic's criticisms about S&M that Diamond always enjoys touting - that S&M are making absolutely no distinction between quality, and any JD whatsoever will lead to this mythic premium.

And again, Diamond is talking here about 'relative opportunity gains' - one thing S&M specifically didn't do is factor in any analysis of debt levels or repayment ability to their vaunted study. With a modest, at best, as Diamond seems to be acknowledging, increase in relative opportunity for a student at La Verne (or Santa Clara), does $200,000 of debt make sense?

It seems almost as though Diamond is beginning to try and walk back his position somewhat and is acknowledging reality, but he can't whole-hog admit he's been really long so feels like he must persist in calling LST names.

Posted by: oh lord | Nov 19, 2015 11:26:50 AM

"people who go to LaVerne or Chapman ought to have the same opportunities as people who go to Harvard."

Wait. . . who is saying that ?

The problem is, the schools know that those folks have no shot at a harvard outcome and still charge them harvard prices funded with non dichargable student loans.

Steve, you're like a Japanese soldier in the 70s who doesn't know that the war is over. You lost.

Posted by: terry malloy | Nov 19, 2015 11:14:06 AM

Clearly the critics have a hard time understanding the concept of relative opportunity gains. LST types always seem to think people who go to LaVerne or Chapman ought to have the same opportunities as people who go to Harvard. That makes no sense. I think most of the students who go to LaVerne certainly know the difference. The question for them is whether it makes sense to go through life with just a BA or whether the investment in a JD at the best law school they can get into is worthwhile. For many getting to go to a LaVerne represents a significant improvement in their opportunities in life even with only an x% chance of passing the bar. That LST rings alarm bells and paints this decision making process in bright red obfuscates more than it illuminates. It has been ever thus with LST. Its a sad sign of the deterioration of the New York Times that they fell for this gambit.

Posted by: Steve Diamond | Nov 19, 2015 10:27:25 AM

Criticisms of LST make little sense. Referring to LST as "scammers" makes zero sense. You can call them chicken little, or hyperbolic, or alarmist, etc. if you disagree with them, but scammers? Makes no sense.

Posted by: Jojo | Nov 16, 2015 1:20:54 PM

Ooops. Typo in previous comment for moderation. Trying again.

Steve - you call LST 'scammer's - could you please lay out for us what the scam is that LST is perpetrating? I don't know what you're trying to say.

Posted by: oh lord | Nov 16, 2015 10:20:06 AM

Steve - you can LST 'scammer's - could you please lay out for us what the scam is that LST is perpetrating? I don't know what you're trying to say.

Posted by: oh lord | Nov 16, 2015 10:19:25 AM


"A law school shall not admit an applicant who does not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar."

- ABA Accreditation Standard 501(b)

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 16, 2015 8:31:50 AM

@ Steve, I think that is the best argument you have put forth yet. This is America, and people deserve to take a chance on themselves. This isn't the only industry with a high failure rate, although the debt compounds that issue very seriously. Law schools should acknowledge their employment outcomes and bar passage outcomes, but then promote the exceptional cases along with the message that you can't achieve your dream if you don't try. You may be correct that they will come in droves anyway. The fact that the decline in enrollment has bottomed out (apparently) supports that thesis. I do believe that a corollary to this position is that the Govt should limit its role in lending to students that have a high risk of failure.

Posted by: JM | Nov 16, 2015 7:21:47 AM

"Scammers at LST".

Insert .gif of Jennifer Lawrence giving a mocking thumbs up and mouthing 'ok"

Kyle McEntee is the villain in this story. . . the logic train just blew through the station.

Posted by: terry malloy | Nov 16, 2015 3:49:39 AM

Huh. I can't say he got his reasoning all the way right, but there's a surprising amount of sense coming from Steve Diamond in that comment. Maybe the real Steve Diamond got bodysnatched by aliens?

Posted by: oh lord | Nov 15, 2015 10:17:31 PM

These deans sound like the people who think global warming is man made. Of course maybe it's true that they can delink the close relationship between LSAT and bar passage rates by insuring that not all of the people who enter the first year (and pay a significant piece of change for the privilege) are among those who are still around to take the bar exam three years later.

But that does not help the scammers at LST. Their problem is that their case is based on the special snowflake culture - everyone deserves to know they will succeed before they even try - that they must support to have relevance. And that is simply not consistent with social reality. Bar passage rates would have to be far lower than they are now or are likely to go to discourage people from taking the chance they can beat the odds. And that is an approach that is at the heart of our culture. It's not going to change even if Bernie Sanders becomes president.

Posted by: Steve Diamond | Nov 15, 2015 7:59:26 PM