Bar Exams, Law Schools

Test Takers Tank On The July 2012 Michigan Bar Exam

Was one of the essay questions “design an American truck that runs on candy and rainbows but still has enough power to make a Texan feel better about his small penis”? Because that would be a hard question. And it would explain the abysmal bar passage rate achieved by test takers on the July 2012 Michigan bar exam.

The people who took the Michigan bar exam passed at a rate as if all of them went to Cooley. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it was still pretty bad. The bar passage rate for the state was 55 percent. Tipsters and commenters contend that those ridiculous numbers are due to a change in scoring the essays, but the Michigan Bar hasn’t released an official reason for the low rates.

Hell, maybe they want it this way. One way of slowing the saturation of the legal market is to make it a harder market to enter.

Let’s take a look at a school-by-school breakdown…

A tipster sent us this breakdown of the school-by-school passage rates. Note that these are unofficial, as the Michigan State Bar hasn’t yet responded to my phone call:

A few notes:

  • If these figures are correct, the thing that is most surprising to me is the performance of the University of Michigan. Sure, 80 percent is far better than the other state schools, but having two out of every ten graduates from Michigan fail the Michigan bar seems crazy.
  • I hope all you second-time test takers enjoyed wasting your money.
  • Cooley. Detroit Mercy. Lulz.

Our tipsters are blaming the carnage on new essay-question scoring. Social media is ablaze with stuff about the curve on the essays. It’s all rumor at this point, because Michigan isn’t explaining itself. With passage rates this low, it feels like the state will have to recalibrate things for future exams.

But, wouldn’t it be kind of cool if this is exactly what the Michigan State Bar wanted? Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if Michigan wanted to make its bar one of the hardest in the country, and make new lawyers really earn it? Wouldn’t it be cool if Michigan’s way of handling low-end schools in the state is to make the bar hard enough that it punishes schools with sub-par standards?

That’s probably not what happened. It’s probably just a one-time mistake or blip. But just remember, there’s no rule saying the bar exam should be passed by anybody with half a brain and a Bar/Bri course.

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