Thursday, September 24, 2015

Should We Lower the Bar Passing Rate so that We Have Enough Lawyers?

The ABA Journal has asked this question.  (here)  Deborah Weiss writes, "The average score for July 2015 test takers in the multistate, multiple choice exam was at its lowest point in 25 years. Pass rates for the July exam were also down.   One law professor—Jerry Organ of the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis—says fewer law graduates may be passing the bar exam in coming years, creating a shortage of licensed law grads to fill available positions."

She continues, "In his Room for Debate essay, Organ says lower bar passage rates are largely the result of a drop in the multistate scores. He identifies several possible reasons for the lower multistate scores: a software glitch during the July 2014 test, a new civil procedure section on the July 2015 test, and a difference in the entering pool of law students."

“As classes with weaker and weaker credentials graduate in 2016, 2017 and 2018—and likely experience lower bar passage rates—we may see continued declines in the number of graduates who get jobs as lawyers,” Organ writes. “It won’t be because those jobs aren’t available, but because not enough graduates are passing the bar to be eligible for those positions.”

I strongly disagree with those who want to lower the bar passage rate.  Society depends on competent attorneys, not just anyone who can pass a dumb-downed test.  It doesn't help anyone to have an incompetent attorney just like it doesn't help anyone to have an incompetent doctor.

As I have said many times, I do think the bar exam should be changed to better reflect what lawyers do in practice.  However, the standard for passing should remain high.

Professor Organ is correct that if the trend continues we will not have enough attorneys to serve society's needs.  However, the only solution, as I wrote earlier this week,  is to better educate law students.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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