Sunday, July 24, 2011

ABA considers changing accreditation standard requiring schools to increase bar pass rates

The present standard requires that 75% of a school's graduates to pass the bar exam in at least three of the past five years. The standard can also be met if the pass rate for first-time takers is no more than 15% below the average pass rate in that state for three of the past five years. The proposed standard would raise those rates to 80% and 10%, respectively. The Standards Review Committee is considering the change in response to concerns that the present rule doesn't offer enough protection to students and will force schools to do a better job preparing them for the bar. However, there are concerns that the proposal will adversely affect minority students.

From the National Law Journal:

The organization is trying to reconcile the legal profession's need for greater diversity with its desire to push law schools to better prepare students to pass the bar. For the second time in four years, it is considering raising the minimum bar-passage-rate requirement as part of a comprehensive review of law school accreditation standards.

Diversity advocates mobilized against the push in 2007 out of fear that it would discourage schools from accepting students -- often from disadvantaged backgrounds -- with lower credentials but high potential. Once again, they are gearing up for a fight. "I don't think any of the previous arguments have gone away," said Ngai Pindell, a professor at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a board member of the Society of American Law Teachers, which opposes any change. The organization "is still concerned with the possible effects on curriculum and on diversity."

. . . .

The hope is that higher standards would push schools with lower passage rates to invest more in academic support and bar preparation, [Santa Clara Dean Don] Polden said [He is chair of the Standards Review Committee]. They also would serve a consumer-protection function, assuring law students a reasonable expectation of passing the bar.

You can read more reporting here.


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