Paul L. Caron

Friday, January 31, 2020

Florida International Law School: An Unexpected Bar Passage Leader

Following up on my previous posts:

An Unexpected Leader, Nat'l Jurist, Vol. 29, No. 3, Winter 2020, at 6:

Florida International University is once again ranked No. 1 in the state for bar passage. What’s its secret? One hint: cognitive schema theory.

OK, this is getting ridiculous.

Florida International University College of Law once again topped all Florida law schools when it came to bar passage. Results from the July 2019 bar exam show that 95.7% of FIU Law grads taking the test for the first time passed, a rate nearly 22% above the state average. The Miami school has led all Florida law schools in bar passage for five consecutive July exams.

It makes no sense. It defies logical outcomes if you go by traditional measurements. The median Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score for students entering FIU Law is 157. The national median, in comparison, is 152.

On paper, University of Florida Levin College of Law has better students. Its median LSAT score for its entering class is 164. That’s top in the state.

Meanwhile, University of Florida’s July 2019 bar passage rate was 87.9%. That’s good, but not FIU Law good.

As we said, FIU’s showing is ridiculous. Preposterous. Absurd.

Or not.

“No, I was not surprised,” said Raul Ruiz, the school’s director of bar preparation, when asked about the most recent results. “Our students work very hard. And it’s the continuing evolution of our (bar prep) program. We’re constantly identifying what works and what works better.”

The American Bar Association (ABA) used to give schools five years to have 75% of students from a graduating class pass the bar. Now they get two. That recent change has sent some schools scrambling to improve bar prep and bring up their two-year tallies, which are known as their “ultimate” bar passage rates.

FIU Law’s ultimate bar passage rate for the Class of 2016 — at more than 95% — is among the top 15 in the nation.

There is no secret to this success, mind you. The brains behind it are Ruiz and Louis Schulze Jr., associate dean and professor of academic support. Schulze wrote an academic paper about their method two years ago [The Science of Learning Law: Academic Support Measures at Florida International University College of Law], so it’s out there for everyone to see and duplicate if they wish.

But it can be complicated to grasp and time-consuming to implement. In short, they use the most progressive learning techniques available — things like metacognition, spaced repetition, cognitive schema theory and retrieval practice. They say it teaches students how to become “self-regulated learners.”

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That 95.7% bar passage rate is only so useful when only 74.6% of your grads have full-time jobs as lawyers. The rest just get to pay a few hundred per year forever in bar dues for the privilege of being a "lawyer."

And that's the best job performance they've put up all decade. Most prior years' ABA Form 509s reveal full-time lawyer employment outcomes of 2/3 or less.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Feb 1, 2020 11:30:12 AM