After repeat failures to meet bar pass standard, ABA gives Cooley Law School extension
Western Michigan University’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School continues to not meet the 75% bar passage rate required under Standard 316, and the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar recently gave the school an extension to come into compliance.
The notice was posted last week on the section’s website. The standard gives law schools two years to have pass rates of at least 75%, but other factors may also be considered, according to a 2019 guidance memo. That year, the council tightened up the bar passage standard.
Following the revision, Cooley Law School was found to be out of compliance with Standard 316 in 2020, when its ultimate bar passage rate was 66.01%, and again in 2021, when its ultimate bar passage rate was 62.31%.
For the class of 2019, which determined this year’s ultimate bar passage rate, Cooley had a 59.51% ultimate bar passage rate.
The 2022 extension for Cooley Law comes with various conditions. They include working with faculty to improve teaching and learning, reviewing the effects of more rigorous grading policies, and making a “significant financial investment” in a “reliable plan” to ensure that the law school has resources to operate in compliance with the standards.
Also, the law school must adhere to a revised admissions policy, so entering classes have stronger success predictors for graduating and passing a bar exam.
James McGrath, the dean of Cooley Law, told the ABA Journal that plans are already in place to meet the conditions. Regarding the school’s ultimate bar passage rate declining since 2020, McGrath says the situation relates to old admissions standards that Cooley Law used before he arrived, which were in place prior to Standard 316 being revised.
“I said at our last meeting with the ABA, I predict the two-year bar pass rate would go down before it goes up. We had a really big class in 2018 that was admitted under the prior credentials. I’m looking for a huge jump in bar pass rates this year,” says McGrath, who joined Cooley Law in 2019.
According to its Standard 509 Information Report for 2019, the law school had 1,156 students, and the median LSAT score was 145. The most recent Standard 509 Information Report, which is for 2021, showed a total of 655 students with a median LSAT score of 148.
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