Friday, September 18, 2015
Above the Law has an article on the declining bar passage rates. The article concludes,
"According to Professor [Derek] Muller, 'There isn’t a lot that schools can do. You can only train students so far and so much, a lot depends on ability.' That being said, there seems to be an obvious solution to the problem, but we doubt it’s one that law schools will take. Law schools must accept the fact that in order to produce graduates who will be able to pass the bar exam, they must heighten their admissions standards. In doing so, their classes will be small — very small — and their coffers won’t be as full as they used to be. Some law schools will have to close for this to happen, and it’ll be a traumatic experience for all involved.
Until law schools realize they’re doing a disservice to everyone — their students, their graduates, and their graduates’ future clients — things will only continue to get worse."
There is another alternative: Better educate law students by using teaching approaches that have been shown to work by general education researchers. I may sound like a broken record, but better teachings methods will solve many of the woes that face law schools. Law schools particularly need to employ better teaching methods for first-year students because most colleges are not giving them the cognitive skills they need to succeed in law school.
Professor Mueller and Above the Law seem to be suffering from the fixed mindset, which both Deborah Jo Merritt and I have attacked this week. (here, here) In other words, they believe that nothing can be done about the abilities of the students who enter law school. However, a great deal of education research has demonstrated that this is not true. Students who have a growth mindset can increase their intelligence through hard work and deliberate practice. I have previously set out several ways law students can increase their abilities (here), so I won't repeat them in this post.
I am concerned about what we will learn over the next few weeks as we see bar results from more states. However, declining bar passage rates are not a disaster; they are an opportunity. We can overcome the problem of declining bar passage rates with better educational methods.