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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

ABA House Of Delegates Again Rejects 75% Bar Passage Within 2 Years Accreditation Standard, 79% to 21%; Final Decision Rests With Council

ABA Logo (2016)Following up on my previous posts (links below):  ABA Journal, ABA House of Delegates Rejects Changes to the Bar Passage Standard for Law Schools:

For the second time, the ABA House of Delegates voted against a proposal to tighten a bar passage rate standard for accredited law schools. At the ABA Midyear Meeting in Las Vegas on Monday, House members were asked to stand for a vote count, and the final vote was 88 in favor of the resolution, and 334 opposed. 

Language in Resolution 105called for at least 75 percent of a law school’s graduates to pass a bar exam within a two-year period. Under ABA rules, the house can send a potential revision, which today was for Standard 316, back to the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar twice for review with or without recommendations, but the council has the final decision on matters related to law school accreditation. ...

After the resolution was voted down, Barry Currier, managing director for the ABA law school accreditation process, released a statement.

“Because this is the House’s second rejection of this proposal, the council’s options are to abandon the effort to revise the standard; propose a different revision; or reaffirm and implement the changes. The timetable for the council’s consideration of the matter has not been set,” Currier said. “The council understands this is a complex matter. Revisions to the existing standard on bar passage outcomes provide more straightforward and clear expectations for law schools and provide regulation and process that are more appropriate for today’s environment. Most students go to law school to become lawyers. Becoming a lawyer requires passing the bar exam. How well a school’s graduates perform on the bar exam is a very important accreditation tool to assess a law school’s program of legal education. The council appreciates the attention this proposal received by the House of Delegates and will consider a report on the concerns of the House of Delegates before making any final decision.”

ABA Press Release, ABA House Balks at Revising Bar Passage Standard, Approves Slew of Policy Resolutions:

The American Bar Association House of Delegates (HOD) rejected Monday (Jan. 28) a major change in the bar passage standard for U.S. law schools, sending back to its originator a proposal that would require 75 percent of a law school’s graduates who sit for the bar pass it within two years.

The HOD, the ABA’s policy-making body which met on the final day of the ABA Midyear Meeting in Las Vegas, voted 88-334 against Resolution 105 after a spirited debate in which six people spoke for each side. The proposed change now returns to the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which also unsuccessfully offered the proposal to the House two years ago.

Barry Currier, managing director for the ABA law school accreditation process, said afterward that under ABA rules and procedures the council now could abandon the effort to revise the standard; propose a different revision; or reaffirm and implement the changes. The council, which is the entity recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit the nation’s 203 ABA-approved law schools, meets again Feb. 21-23 in California.

“The council understands this is a complex matter,” Currier said of the bar passage proposal, affecting Standard 316 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for the Approval of Law Schools. He added the council “will consider a report on the concerns of the House of Delegates before making any final decision.”

Prior TaxProf Blog posts:

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2019/01/aba-house-of-delegates-again-rejects-75-bar-passage-within-2-years-accreditation-standard-79-to-21-f.html

Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

No mention of why 334 of 422 Bar Association delegates (71.4%) opposed instituting this straightforward qualitative standard. Apparently, one in four incompetent Legum Baccalaureus( LL.B degree) graduates is an acceptable proportion.

Two years seems a liberal enough time-frame to acquire Bar Association credentials-- in civil engineering, six years' practical experience plus an updated qualifying exam will gain acceptance to the confraternity; in medicine, aspiring physicians notoriously require four years' hospital residency plus specialty training and a stringent "Board Certified" licensing regime. From "hard sciences" to Divinity Schools, basic competence in any discipline is a guild tenet bearing on professional status.

Bridges collapse, patients die, ill-represented clients face unjust fines, imprisonment, that strike at the root of civil polity. But who needs ability, competence, integrity, when Guild Masters have a PCBS axe to grind?.

Posted by: Lloyd Martin Hendaye | Jan 29, 2019 10:10:39 AM

75% is an arbitrary number and way too high when the median pass rate on the bar exam nationwide is in the 60% range. It's absurd to put the minimum pass rate nearly 15% above the average and expect such a resolution to pass (it's actually shocking that it got 21% of the council to vote in favor). Also, when all of the different schools feed into very different bar exam settings it's ridiculous to use a single national average. Most of the law schools servicing the DC and CA areas would lose accreditation simply because the pass rates on those bar exams are much lower than other states. A better measure would be for the average graduate pass rate to be not more than 20% below the median for the jurisdiction they go to.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 30, 2019 3:22:27 AM

"75% is an arbitrary number and way too high when the median pass rate on the bar exam nationwide is in the 60% range."

It took 10 seconds of Googling to find that the average pass rate for first-time takers in 2017 was 74.99%. Also the proposed 75% threshold was to be measured two years - or FOUR testing cycles - after graduation.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 30, 2019 9:45:41 AM

So I guess the ABA is not a cartel after all!

Posted by: Anon | Feb 2, 2019 4:45:54 PM