Friday, September 18, 2015

A Solution to Declining Bar Passage Rates

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.

(Scott Fruehwald)

| Permalink


Yes, but here's to reaching to parts of the continuum to see what we can do collectively. I'm thankful for the collaboration of some of the ASP community in that regard and hope that pedagogical reform can be examined as it impacts both the law school years and a student's time before law school.

Posted by: Greg Bordelon | Sep 20, 2015 11:50:49 AM

I agree, but legal educators can only address what happens in law school.

Posted by: Scott Fruehwald | Sep 19, 2015 3:47:15 PM

Part of your argument about the deficiencies of first year law students resulting from poor preparation at the college level simply kicks the can down the road. Until we focus on the continuum of education of students from early childhood education to law school can the educational institutions collaboratively discuss solutions. Movements for transformative education at the undergraduate level that focus on building critical thinking skills and the benefits of high impact and immersive intellectual experiences outside the classroom are being employed at some colleges. But like the point you make about the condition of the examiner when they take the bar exam, what cognitive abilities are they getting from high school or before? All players in education should look at the bar exam scores decrease and address it.

Posted by: Greg Bordelon | Sep 19, 2015 2:52:22 PM

Post a comment