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.
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):
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.