Law Schools

ABA committee recommends pushing all jurisdictions to disclose bar exam results to law schools

An ABA committee has decided to ask the governing council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to press for the universal release to law schools of name-specific bar exam pass-fail information.

The move comes as the section’s Standards Review Committee, which is conducting a comprehensive review of the law school accreditation standards, considers a proposed new standard that would require a law school to show that 80 percent of its graduates who took a bar exam in the two years after the year of their graduation passed.

The committee, which met Friday and Saturday in Atlanta, debated the merits of such a proposal for several hours. But it tabled action on the matter until its next meeting in February in the face of evidence showing that not all jurisdictions currently provide name-specific bar pass information to law schools, either automatically or upon request.

In the meantime, the committee voted unanimously to recommend that the council, which sets policy related to legal education, pass a resolution calling on jurisdictions that currently don’t provide such information to law schools to start doing so.

Committee chair Jeffrey E. Lewis, professor and dean emeritus of St. Louis University School of Law, said after the meeting that such information is critical to a law school’s ability to assess the quality of its academic program.

“It’s vitally important that law schools have access to that kind of information,” he said.

Under the current standards, a law school can meet the so-called bar pass requirement in one of two ways: either by showing that 75 percent of its graduates who took the bar exam in at least three of the previous five years passed or by showing that its graduates’ first-time bar pass rate was no more than 15 points below the average bar pass rate for ABA-approved law schools in states where its graduates took the bar.

Under the committee’s current draft proposal, a law school would have to show not only that 80 percent of its graduates who took the bar passed, but also that it used its “best efforts” to obtain bar pass information for all of its graduates, reported information for at least 80 percent of its graduates and reported all information that it was able to obtain.

A law school that is found to be out of compliance under the proposed standard would have at least two years to come into compliance with it by demonstrating “good cause,” which under the proposal would include an improving trend in bar pass rates; demonstrating “effective and sustained actions” by the school to raise its bar pass rate; or demonstrating that there are temporary circumstances beyond its control that it is working to address.

At its meeting in Atlanta, the committee also approved several proposed amendments to the standards’ nondiscrimination and diversity requirements.

It also reaffirmed its prior recommendation to raise the experiential learning requirement in the standards from one credit hour to six credit hours, which the council has already posted for notice and comment. The Clinical Legal Education Association had asked the committee to consider increasing the requirement to 15 credit hours.

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