As I mentioned Friday, the National Jurist (subscription) came out with a very interesting ranking of law schools. As Tax Prof Blog explains, the publication looked at schools that helped people pass the bar despite their low LSAT scores.
It’s an interesting methodology: the Jurist predicted a bar passage rate for people, state-by-state, based on their LSAT scores, then looked at the 25th percentile LSAT scores at each school, and figured out which schools had the largest deviation from the predictions. High-ranking law schools were the ones that significantly outperformed the bar passage rate expected from their low-scoring students.
These could be significant findings: while poor performance on the LSAT doesn’t necessarily mean the student is dumb, it almost certainly means the students is bad at taking standardized tests. If schools have students who go from being bad at taking a relatively easy standardized test (the LSAT) to passing one of the hardest and most stressful standardized tests out there (the bar exam), it sounds a lot like they are educating people, instead of simply benefiting from the achievements of motivated admitted students.
But, should the law school get the credit for the success? Or are there some test prep companies that should take a bow?
First, let’s get to the actual rankings because rankings are fun. You can see the full top-50 list at Tax Prof Blog, but here are the top ten schools:
4. Wake Forest
7. North Carolina Central
9. University of Washington
I gave you 11 because I assume everything coming out of Villanova Law is a damn lie.
It’s worth noting that the California schools probably score well because California will let anybody take their bar exam. Pretty much any accredited legal education in California will help you pass at a greater rate the riff-raff that apparently shows up during bar exam week.
Look, any law school can just take your money. But it looks like these schools are emphasizing the things necessary to help people who might not otherwise be good at taking tests to pass the bar. I’m not sure if it’s worth what some of these schools charge, but it’s worth something. Note that a school like Thomas Cooley does not appear on this list.
Of course, part of the education given by these institutions might be simply be pointing at-risk students in the direction of the right test prep course and getting them the remedial bar exam help they need. The test prep companies are probably the experts in preparing students to pass the exam, but the law schools have to tell the kids that taking the courses is important. Remember, a lot of these kids would have scored better on the LSAT in the first place if they had just taken an LSAT prep course and followed the instructions.
Still, these schools deserve credit for actually getting the job done and helping under-performing students pass the bar. The real benefit of these rankings might be to inspire some sharing of best practices. Clearly, there’s something going on at LSU that others can learn from (perhaps “others” at Tulane). Maybe North Carolina Central has a model for preparing poor LSAT takers to succeed on the bar exam that can be copied by other law schools that admit people with horrific LSAT scores?
Whenever somebody can rank law schools based on student outcomes, there is something to learn, even if all that we learn is how to better identify the schools that are providing nearly no value to the students they enroll.
Best Law Schools for Bar Exam Preparation [Tax Prof Blog]