Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

ABA Council Approves 75% Minimum Bar Pass Rate (Within Two Years Of Graduation), 20% Maximum Attrition Rate, Paid Externships

ABA Legal EdABA, Summary of Council actions at its March 2016 meeting:

The Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar met March 11-12 in Phoenix, Arizona to consider recommendations, reports and other issues on its agenda. Key actions include:

  • Externships [comments]:  The Council accepted the recommendation of its Standards Review Committee (SRC) and approved changes to Standard 304, which address experiential learning, and 305, which deals with study outside the law school classroom setting. Both relate to the requirements for the operation and management of externship programs. The approved changes remove the prohibition on students receiving compensation for work done in a credit-bearing externship program. Law schools would be able to have a school policy to prohibit compensation for creditbearing externships. The changes impose additional requirements to assure that externship programs are quality educational experiences for participating students. Over the next few weeks, the language on these changes will be finalized and a resolution to the ABA House of Delegates could be filed for its next meeting in August 2016 in San Francisco.
  • Bar passage [comments]:  The Council put out for notice and comment significant changes to bar passage rates as they relate to accreditation. The Council accepted the SRC recommendation to simplify and amend Standard 316 to require that the graduates of a law school in a particular calendar year who sit for a bar exam pass at a rate of 75 percent or higher within two years of their graduation. First-time bar passage rates would continue to be collected and reported as a matter of consumer information under Standard 509. But for purposes of accreditation, the focus will be exclusively on a school’s “ultimate” bar pass rate that would have a shorter, two-year window. The Council will hold at least one hearing on the matter. Council review of a final proposal could be at its October 2016 meeting, with a request for House of Delegates approval at the February 2017 Midyear Meeting.
  • Admission policies and procedures [comments] [attrition data on 204 law schools]:  The Council agreed to seek notice and comment on changes to Standard 501, which relates to a law school’s admissions policies and practices. The proposed changes include an interpretation creating a rebuttable presumption that a school is operating out of compliance with Standard 501’s requirement that it admit students who are capable of completing its J.D. program if the non-transfer attrition rate of its first-year class is 20 percent or higher. Written comments on this and other changes will be invited and at least one hearing will be set to allow interested persons to provide oral testimony on these proposals. The Council will expect to hear a report on these matters at a meeting in October. At that time, the Council may approve these changes or elect to continue its deliberations on them.
  • Other items [comments]:  The Council will continue consideration of proposed changes to Standards 205 and 206 related to equal opportunity, non-discrimination, and diversity and inclusion, as well as proposals for Standard 503, related to a “valid and reliable admission test.”

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Is the ABA going to normalize for the varying state bar passage requirements. For instance, most states peg their essay scoring to the MBE scoring in the state (making the scores roughly comparable across states) but states have different scoring requirements. It is objectively easier to pass the bar in some states than in others.

Will law schools in states with higher standards for passage would be held to the same standard as schools with lower standards of passage?

Posted by: Query | Mar 16, 2016 8:00:30 AM

The attrition policy is useless. Law schools will simply never fail more than 20% of a 1L class. The bar passage policy is better, but I recall that the policy had a loophole allowing law schools to be exposed as long as they were "making progress." If the ABA really cared about our profession it would stop accrediting new law schools like Indy Tech and it would instead begin to cull the ranks of the bottom-feeding, predatory law schools, whether for profit or non-profit.

Posted by: More B.S. | Mar 15, 2016 6:10:48 PM

These new rules can only be good. But too little good (I would have given the schools one, not two years to get to 75% passage), and too late (a lot of student-debtors having already been harmed).

Posted by: Old Ruster from JDJunkyard | Mar 15, 2016 3:09:09 PM

BOOM! But I'll believe it when i see it, wake me up when it actually gets implemented/enforced.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 15, 2016 9:22:35 AM

Kudos ABA! The tiger found some dentures--it's no longer toothless.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 15, 2016 4:22:25 AM