American Bar Association Rejects Plan to Toughen Law School Standards

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: The statue of justice stands on the copula of the Old Bailey courthouse after Ian Huntley was sentenced to two life terms in prison for murdering 10-year-old school girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and his girl friend Maxine Wells was convicted of preverting the course of …

The American Bar Association decided last week to reject a plan to toughen law school standards.

The American Bar Association rejected a plan last week that would have required law schools to have 75 percent of graduates pass the bar within two years of their graduation. The measure failed by a wide measure, with 334 votes against and only 88 in favor.

Speaking about the importance of the bar exam, Tammi Rice of Kaplan Bar Review argued that law schools should be measured by their ability to help students pass the exam.

“Arguably one of the most important responsibilities of a law school is to help its students succeed on the bar exam. Keep in mind that all of the law schools that have recently shuttered or are on the verge of closing down have something in common: a low bar passage rate,” Rice said. “This is an important statistic that potential law school students look at.”

It is likely that measure failed primarily as a result of the belief that it would hurt minority students. In a letter to the ABA, legal educators from around the globe said that the new plan would seriously hurt minority students at the historically black colleges, one Puerto Rican school, and five additional California schools.

When we examine the entire group of 58 schools with bar passage rates below 65%, we find five more HBCU schools (one at 50.47% and one at 50.95%), one more Puerto Rican school, and five additional California schools (one at 52.30%). When all of these schools below 65% are considered together, the totals are alarming. Six of the six HBCU schools, three of the three Puerto Rican schools, and twelve of the twenty-one California schools6 are in danger of not reaching the threshold and losing their accreditation. In addition to these, there are other schools with significant numbers of minority students. Based on these numbers, there is little doubt that the proposed changes to Standard 316 would have a significant impact on diversity in the profession.

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