Paul L. Caron
Dean



Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Occam’s Razor: The Broken California Bar Exam

TaxProf Blog op-ed:  Occam’s Razor: The Broken California Bar Exam, by Mitchel L. Winick (President & Dean, Monterey College of Law):

WinickThe simplest solution is most likely the right one. This is the most common paraphrased version of English Franciscan friar William of Ockham's Latin philosophy of “lex parsimoniae.” 

We could believe that all 40+ California law schools suddenly and inexplicably became incapable of teaching substantive bar tested subjects . . . or perhaps the California Bar Exam grading and scoring system is broken. Alternatively, we could believe that California law schools conspired to intentionally destroy the profession by systematically seeking out and selecting students who had little or no ability to successfully study and understand the principles of law . . . or perhaps the California Bar Exam grading and scoring system is broken. We could believe that a 70+ year-old scoring system that the Bar’s own data indicates has significant disparate impact on the basis of race/ethnicity does not play a role in the lack of diversity in the profession . . . or perhaps the California Bar Exam grading and scoring system is broken.

We could believe that despite scoring a February 2020 state mean scaled score of 1357, well above the national mean scaled score of 1326, and well above the national minimum passing score standard of 1330-1350, that only 26.8% of California bar examinees have the “minimum qualifications for the first year practice of law” . . . or perhaps the California Bar Exam grading and scoring system is broken.

The simplest solution is most likely the right one . . . it made sense in 1320 . . . it makes sense in 2020.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2020/05/occams-razor-the-broken-california-bar-exam.html

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Comments

Yes, the simplest solution is the right one. The California Bar Exam has remained constant. There cutoff score has remained the same, and there is no allegation that the test has gotten more difficult (half is the MBE anyway). The simplest explanation, in fact, the ONLY explanation, is that the candidates are performing worse than in the past. That can ONLY be attributed to either 1) poorer preparation, or 2) less fit candidates.

Publishing an op-ed like this is beneath this blog.

Posted by: JM | May 13, 2020 6:16:18 AM

I have posted a reply to President Winick on the Legal Skills Prof Blog.

Posted by: Scott Fruehwald | May 13, 2020 2:39:20 PM

My fancy (non-California) law school spent much of my first year asking us kids what we thought about relatively few parts of bar-tested subjects, explicitly seeks out and selects students for reasons that don't intuitively align with capacity to study law, disparate impact is by definition not necessarily a matter of purpose or easily fixable causation ... and "broken" is not constructive.

Posted by: Anand Desai | May 14, 2020 10:12:04 PM