Legal Education

As Golden Gate Law works to meet bar pass standard, new students get full scholarships

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Golden Gate

The Golden Gate University School of Law. Photo by Burntorange72, CC-BY-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Almost a year after being found out of compliance with an ABA accreditation standard that requires a bar pass rate of at least 75% within two years, the Golden Gate University School of Law significantly reduced its first-year class size and awarded full-tuition scholarships to all newly admitted full-time JD students.

The awards, announced in August, are unconditional and cover the duration of students’ legal educational programs, Colin Crawford, Golden Gate University’s law school dean, told the ABA Journal. He says plans for the offerings were in place before the school received public notice about Standard 316 in November 2021.

The pass rates for the law school, located in San Francisco, were 57.50% for 2018 graduates and 67% for 2019 graduates.

“In short, the plan aims to address 316 compliance but was not created solely as a response to 316 compliance. More importantly, the provost and I, with the unanimous support of our faculty, staff and trustees, see the plan as expanding our mission of access and opportunity,” Crawford told the ABA Journal in an email.

A much smaller class will be admitted for the next three years, according to a Sept. 27 news release. The 1L class has 32 newly admitted students, 8 deferrals and three people who are restarting the JD program, Crawford wrote. The group’s median LSAT is 154, and its median undergraduate GPA is 3.2.

In 2021, the 1L class had 145 members, a median LSAT score of 151 and a median undergraduate GPA of 3.13.

Academic support staff at the law school has been doubled, the news release states. Rather than hire new staff, a lawyer who worked in the admissions office is now with academic support, as are three faculty members, Crawford told the Journal. Also, required classes will focus on helping students prepare for the bar exam.

The scholarships show significant commitment from the university, says Peter Goplerud, the president and dean of Florida Coastal School of Law. He’s also of counsel at Spencer Fane and has appeared before the council of the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar at various times on behalf of law schools. Florida Coastal entered a teach-out plan with the ABA in 2021, and its limited accreditation runs until July 1, 2023.

“It’s hard to read the collective minds of council members, particularly when you have changing personnel,” Goplerud says. “There will be varying levels of empathy, and some things will move individual members more than others.”

Besides the 2021 noncompliance with Standard 316, in 2018 Golden Gate’s law school was found to be out of compliance with Standard 501, which requires law schools that have sound admissions policies and admit only students who appear capable of finishing law school and passing a bar exam. The council in 2020 found that the law school had demonstrated compliance with the standard.

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