Letters: Bar Tips

  • Print.

“Bar Fight” unfortunately gets mired in its own minutiae. In doing so, the bigger picture becomes obscured by its too-close examination of scores and rates. This is not a problem unique to the legal profession; this is a national crisis. At all levels, American schools are failing.

Having graduated 47 years ago near the top of my class from Boalt Hall, having been a California Bar Exam grader, having chosen to teach law at a third-rate school for three decades followed by a stint teaching undergrads at a well-regarded state university, and as the father of a gifted child in a “superior” public school, I have borne witness to the decline of American education for a very long time.

Young people are every bit as intelligent as their elders. They are highly adept at using electronic devices and possessed of inexhaustible access to information. Yet, fewer and fewer of them are capable of engaging in critical thinking or writing cogently and persuasively. This phenomenon is observed in every discipline.

In doubt? Invite a senior faculty member from your local university for drinks and ask some probing questions.

Thomas Goetzl
Bellingham, Washington


Some 42 years ago, I went into a criminal law class at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The teacher was a lady named Hillary Rodham who had an extremely bright future. I did my first year’s work there but ran out of funds and was forced to transfer to the night law school at Little Rock, which had a number of high-quality teachers. I went to school from 6 to 10 p.m., after working as an insurance claims adjuster during the daytime.

I don’t believe LSAT scores are nearly as good a predictor as your author, primarily because they don’t gauge drive, ambition or determination—not to mention study habits. Undergraduate grades are a much better gauge of ultimate success in law school. One has to do more than perform one Saturday to accumulate an undergraduate grade point average. That takes diligence and devotion, just as law school does.

We should dispose of bar exams. As long as our law schools are accredited and continue to do a good job, we should trust their degrees to mean something. If bar exams truly protected the public, I’d be all for their continuation. But I have known too many absolutely incompetent people who fooled bar examiners.

Ray Baxter
Benton, Arkansas

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.