For-profit Concord School of Law seeks more state bar exam opportunities for its grads
The Concord Law School of Kaplan University, which offers online courses, in the past month has filed petitions in Arizona, New Mexico and Connecticut, asking the states to change existing rules that restrict its graduates from taking bar exams.
California is currently the only state that allows Concord graduates to sit for its state bar exam as first-time test takers, says Martin Pritikin, the for-profit law school’s dean and vice president. He expects to file more petitions on other states.
With the exception of Minnesota’s Mitchell Hamline School of Law, ABA accreditation standards mandate that students take no more than 15 credit hours of distance learning. Many states, including Arizona, restrict bar applicants to those who graduated from an ABA-accredited law school. Other states don’t allow online law school graduates to sit for state bars, according to Pritikin.
“Primarily, we’re interested in filing petitions to expand access and affordable legal services where needed,” he says. In Connecticut, the request (PDF) was filed with the state bar examining committee. Pritikin’s writing notes that the board granted approval to the Massachusetts School of Law, a non-ABA accredited law school. The Arizona petition (PDF) argues that many of the state’s rural residents have geographical restrictions to attending law school, and only one, Arizona Summit Law School in Phoenix, offers a part-time program.
The bar passage rate (PDF) for Summit’s July 2016 first-time test takers was 24.6 percent, according to the Arizona Supreme Court. When asked if Concord’s petitions are tied to states that have law schools with low bar passage numbers, Pritikin said no.
“The typical Concord student is not someone who couldn’t get into an ABA-accredited law school,” he added. “Our typical student is someone who because of geography, work or child care responsibilities couldn’t go to a traditional law school. So we’re really about expanding access to legal education.”
Concord offers a four-year, part-time program, which costs $39,936. Its first-time pass rate for the California bar is usually around 30 percent, Pritikin says, and the school’s cumulative pass rate is about 52 percent.
To graduate from an unaccredited California law school, one must pass the state bar’s first-year law students’ examination, and Concord’s pass rate for that is 48.8 percent. Pritikin told the ABA Journal that between 80 and 90 percent of its students who pass the FYLSE go on to graduate from the school.
“If a student enrolls but can’t pass a bar exam, at least they get filtered out by FYLSE,” he said. “They spend less money than students who go to a traditional law school, make it through all (of the program), and then find out they can’t pass the bar.”
Concord said in its Arizona and Connecticut petitions that a Kaplan survey found that out of its 2015 and 2016 graduates, the overall employment rate was 75 percent. The survey did not break the data into job categories, Pritikin says, so he didn’t know how many of those students had jobs that required or preferred a JD.
“We know we have 550 graduates who are licensed in California,” he said.
Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education, told the ABA Journal that his section had no comment on the matter. Currier served as president of Kaplan Legal Education and dean of Concord Law School until 2010.
Hat tip to The Irreverent Lawyer