One problem I’ve noticed with law schools: they always seem to be speaking to the dumbest audience possible. They’re certainly not addressing the smartest guys in the room. They’re not even trying to speak to average, reasonable people. Instead, law schools seem to be talking at the very slowest people who might qualify for their programs, to people who have an irrational fear not just of “math,” but of “numbers” themselves.

Unfortunately for American law schools, most people are not as dumb as the law schools would like them to be. And when law schools engage in this Bobby Jindal style of patronizing double speak, neutral observers are forced to conclude that the law school is just communicating with its student body in the guttural words and expressive gestures the school figures they can understand. With each increasingly pathetic response to a problem, the so-called “value” of the school’s law degree goes lower and lower.

Sorry, the TL;DR version of the previous paragraph is: one of our favorite law schools is up to it again….

In January, we told you that the much-maligned Thomas Jefferson School of Law had a truly abysmal bar passage rate for graduates who took the California bar this past July. Only 33% of first time test takers passed, and only 13% of repeat test takers passed the bar.

Again, this is atrocious. I said TJSL should be giving the class of 2011 its money back. I think an institution with a shred of decency would issue an apology to all of its students, and the legal profession as a whole.

Of course, “decency” isn’t how Thomas Jefferson Law got here. Instead, the school’s initial response was to blame its own students for not being motivated enough to pass the test — because instead of taking TJSL’s special, remedial bar prep courses, students just took Bar/Bri or something. The fools!

Blaming somebody else is “panicky crisis management” stage one. Stage two usually involves producing some BS figures that try to obscure the real problem. And that’s apparently where Thomas Jefferson ended up last week. Tipsters report that TJSL Dean Rudy Hasl deployed some impressive smoke and mirrors as recent graduates readied themselves for the February administration of the California Bar. Here’s the email; see if you can smell what Thomas Jefferson is cooking:

In my email message a few weeks ago, I mentioned that our bar passage experience in other states has been more positive than our experience in California. Your SBA President has been asking for a release of this information. I was awaiting a report that was in the process of being prepared and verified in order to send out this email. In some states, we have had very few bar takers over the past few years. Our survey covered the period from 2007 – 2011 and shows that there were 218 graduates who sat for the bar exam in states other than California. The aggregate 1st time taker pass rate for all states, except California, was 74.8% (163/218). I have listed the results in states where 9 or more graduates sat for the bar for the first time between 2007 and 2011:

Arizona 18/26 69.2%
Colorado 7/9 77.8%
Florida 9/11 81.8%
Illinois 19/22 86.4%
Nevada 14/19 73.7%
New York 12/17 70.6%
Ohio 7/9 77.8%
Texas 10/13 76.9%
Washington 13/17 76.5%

I hope that this information helps to clear the air on the ability of graduates of the school to be able to pass the bar exam. I know that the recent bar exam experience in California has been disheartening. But that result was aberrational and is not consistent with the recent trend in California. We have great expectations for the graduates who will be taking the February bar next week and I ask that you keep them in your prayers and thoughts as they take the exam.

This “clear[s] the air” about nothing, because Dean Hasl just farted over plain logic. NOBODY IS TALKING about the aggregate, out-of-state bar passage rates of everybody from 2007 to 2011; talk about a non sequitur.

People are concerned with, specifically, the fact that 2011 graduates had an abysmal performance on the July 2011 bar exam in the state where the school is located. Dean Hasl should be trying to solve that issue, instead of distracting people from the facts. And when he acts like reasonable people don’t know the difference between aggregate numbers culled over five years versus the most recent and still inexplicable numbers everybody is talking about, it makes the whole institution look even worse — a feat I wasn’t sure was possible.

Actually, our tipsters did share one institutional response that might be a sign that the administration is doing something about its bar passage problem:

[C]hanged the minimum grade point average required to hold a Law School Club position in the SBA and all other organizations.

Previously, students needed a 2.25 to be eligible. This new change requires students to be in the top 2/3 of their respective class as of today (not at the end of the Spring 2012 semester). Additionally, there will be other changes that affect one’s eligibility for all elections.

That’s a little bit of “blame the students” again. But it’s worked in the past. And by “past,” I mean like when a ten-year-old is told he can’t go outside and play until he finishes all of his homework. Though, in fairness, I’m not sure you can analogize holding a 2.25 to actually finishing your homework. Maintaining a 2.25 at TJSL is probably more akin to being cognitively aware of the concept of homework and understanding that its completion could potentially enhance your mastery of a subject matter.

Anyway, like I said, getting funny with numbers is only stage two of the bad crisis management response tree when you have no intention of taking responsibility. If the February numbers get back over 50%, the school will pretend like July 2011 doesn’t exist. But if they tank again, I expect to see stage three: blame the media.

Earlier: California Bar Passage Rate Holds Steady; Shame For Underperforming Schools Deepens
Thomas Jefferson School of Law Believes Its 2011 Graduates To Be Kind of Stupid


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