Wednesday, May 13, 2020
When I was a little kid, my friends and I loved "Lost in Space." Our favorite line was "That Does Not Compute, Dr. Smith," which the robot said whenever Dr. Smith said anything illogical.
Mitchel L. Winick (President & Dean, Monterey College of Law) has made a similar illogical statement in an article on the recent abysmal California bar exam results. TaxProf Blog op-ed: Occam’s Razor: The Broken California Bar Exam. In fact, the results on the February Cal. exam were the worst in history. (here)
President Winick uses Occam's Razor to explain these terrible results. According to Occam's Razor, the simplest solution is most likely the right one. Winick states, "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." He continues, "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. etc., etc." He concludes that the California bar exam is broken.
You don't need to be a computer or a PhD in logic to discern that President Winick's logic does not compute. In trying to determine why the bar exam result was so abysmal, you look to see what input or inputs have changed. Only one input changed; California schools on the average have been admitting students with lower and lower GPAs and LSAT scores. (here) Nothing else has changed. The pass/fail cut off has not changed for many years. Consequently, the only explanation for the February results is that California law schools on the average have been admitting weaker and weaker students.
Of course, President Winick is the president and dean of a non-ABA California law school. Under Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation for Winick's faulty logic is that he is not a disinterested observer.
As I have stated many, many, many, many, many times before, the only way for California law schools to raise their bar pass scores without raising the quality of their students is to better educate their students using established educational techniques. I have laid out a plan for doing so in my book, How To Grow A Lawyer: A Guide for Law Schools, Law Professors, and Law Students (2018). Also, as I have stated many, many, many, many, many times before, FIU has produced amazing bar pass results. (here)
Finally, maybe the California bar should look at the non-ABA accredited law schools. Such schools had a 17% pass rate for first-time takers on the February exam and a 26% rate for last July. Are the California accredited schools supplying value to their students and the California bar? Of course, not all non-ABA accredited schools had such dismal results. For example, Glendale University College of Law had a 64% pass rate for first-time takers last July.