American Bar Association / ABA, Bar Exams, Law Schools, LSAT, Lunacy, Reader Polls

ATL Readers to ABA: Enforce Stricter Standards

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.” In contrast, Thomas Jefferson School of Law does not tremble before the toothless authority of the ABA. In fact, the school feels free to respond to utter institutional FAIL with peevish blame-shifting. Either TJSL has a serious problem with its admissions standards or it fails students once they arrive. Or some combo platter thereof. Does it matter? Let’s all stipulate that this is a “bad thing.” But what, if anything, should be done?

There are obviously a range of legal/societal stances toward the treatment of “bad things.” Bad things like cigarettes are legal but have mandatory warning labels. Bad things like the New York Lottery are just a Darwinian tax on the ignorant. Predatory subprime mortgage lenders are subject to a patchwork of federal and state laws. Ponzi schemers face criminal fraud charges. Where a law school charging $120,000 for a dubious product fits into the scheme of bad things is open to debate. So we reader-sourced the question. Last week, we conducted a research poll asking:

• Should the ABA impose national minimum LSAT and/or GPA standards for entry into accredited law schools?
• In what range should the LSAT & GPA cutoffs be?
• Should law schools lose their accreditation if their graduates’ bar passage rates fall below a certain threshold?
• Below what level should a school’s accreditation be in jeopardy?

After the jump, you tell us whether and where the lines should be drawn….

On the question of whether there should be national minimum standards for LSAT and GPA, a strong majority of the 1,200+ respondents voted “Yes,” for some form of standardization, with a slight plurality preferring national standards for both:

On the question of the proper threshold for LSAT scores, you are a tough crowd. The majority of readers selected the 146 -150 range (the highest choice off the answer menu). In other words, not much sympathy for those who fall much below the median:

Most stringent were the 20% of readers who selected “Other”: the average fill-in answer was 157. If enacted, such a cut-off would wipe out — rough guess — at least half of all law schools at a stroke.

A North Korean election-worthy 90% of readers believe that if a school’s graduates’ bar passage rate should fall below a certain threshold, accreditation should be revoked. Ninety-two percent of readers felt that anything below a 50% passage rate should jeopardize accreditation; one-third of you would set the bar passage rate cut-off at a gaudy 75%.

With those numbers, combined with the 66% of you favoring national minimum standards for GPA and/or LSATs, one broad and obvious conclusion here is that increased power for the ABA (or some central authority) is extremely popular among readers. Lawyers and law students want tougher barriers to entry for students and for low-performing schools to be put out of business. It’s a rare flock that hopes for a cull.

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