Legal Education

Pandemic problems may be defense for law schools not meeting bar passage standard

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Law schools now must report the number of recent graduates admitted by diploma privilege in their annual questionnaires in addition to those who took and passed a bar exam.

In a remote meeting Friday, the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar adopted the revision as proposed in a Nov. 11 questionnaire and template committee memo.

Mary Lu Bilek, a council member who is on the committee and is dean of the City University of New York School of Law, clarified that recent graduates admitted by diploma privilege will be viewed as having passed a bar exam.

According to the memo, Standard 316, which as of 2019 requires at least 75% of a law school’s graduates who took a bar exam to pass within two years of graduation, will not be suspended. However, if law schools think that the COVID-19 pandemic limited opportunities for recent graduates to take a bar exam or the virus harmed the school’s bar passage rate, that should be shared with the council for standard compliance determinations.

Additionally, the council signed off on Friday on a proposed revision that law schools placed on probation by ABA must submit teach-out plans. Previously, under Rule 29, the council did not require the submission of teach-out plans until it withdrew, terminated or suspended a law school’s accreditation.

According to a Nov. 9 standards committee memo, the proposed teach-out revision follows U.S. Department of Education requirements added in 2019.

The proposed revision also suggests teach-out plans for law schools that have their federal student loan money placed in a cash payment method or a heightened cash-monitoring payment method by the Department of Education or if there is agency notification that an independent auditor expressed doubts that a law school could continue.

Under ABA rules, proposed revisions to legal education standards and rules go to the ABA House of Delegates up to two times for review, but the council has the final decision on matters related to law school accreditation.

See also: “Bar exam does little to ensure attorney competence, say lawyers in diploma privilege state” “How are things working out for 3 Utah law grads seeking diploma privilege?” “Oregon is third state to grant diploma privilege, while Tennessee cancels its July UBE”

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