Whenever we ask the American Bar Association to make regulations with teeth that would actually improve the quality of legal education, the organization claims that law schools will sue them if they try.
The ABA has no stomach to seriously regulate its member institutions, but individual state bars also have authority to regulate the law schools in their jurisdictions. A new rule in California holds schools to a higher standard than the ABA is willing to impose.
So, of course, a California law school is suing 22 members of the State Committee of Bar Examiners over the new rule. They want to keep their rubber stamp of accreditation from the CBE, since they don’t yet have accreditation with the ABA.
If you think people running accredited law schools are willing to make spurious arguments to justify the value of legal education, wait till you see the stuff they try to pull at unaccredited law schools…
The CBE recently passed a rule saying that law schools needed to maintain a 40 percent bar passage rate over a five-year period in order to maintain accreditation.
To put that number in context, that means your dumb-ass law school can pump out significantly more graduates who fail the bar than pass it, yet still call itself an accredited school in California.
But apparently the 40 percent bar passage requirement is just too high of a bar for something called the Southern California Institute of Law. They’re saying the new standard violates free speech and the due process rights of the school. From Courthouse News Service:
“The new standard is a wooden test that fails to take into account the school’s mission, the nature of its student body, the quality of its faculty and academic program, its efforts to maximize students’ chances of success on the bar exam, or other factors considered historically during the re-accreditation process. To make matters worse, the new test is applied retroactively. The test requires the calculation to be made over a retrospective five-year period, condemning any school with less than a 40 percent rate in some or all years predating 2013 to the negative impact of the lower rates on its overall average. Schools that do not meet the requirement when they file their yearly reports in 2013 will receive a notification of non-compliance which badly tarnishes a school’s reputation. Beginning in 2016, schools that fall below the minimum cumulative bar examination pass rate will be placed on probation and could ultimately lose their accreditation if they do not comply with the requirements by the end of 2017.”
It’s Friday, it’s snowing, I don’t have anything better to do, let’s answer Southern California’s complaints. It won’t take long:
- The new standard is a wooden test. I don’t know how wood got involved, but the new standard is based on an objective figure that you either pass or fail. You know, kind of like the bar exam. Instead of bitching about it, why don’t you figure out how to satisfy it?
- [It] fails to take into account the school’s mission. I’m willing to bet that the mission of at least 41 percent of your students is to pass the freaking bar exam.
- [T]he nature of its student body. Somebody has to protect your student body from themselves.
- [T]he quality of its faculty and academic program. Did your faculty pass the bar? Can we test them again?
- [I]ts efforts to maximize students’ chances of success on the bar exam. Oh, we’re grading people on “effort” now? I wonder if you’d accept the same from your students? “Sorry SoCal Institute, I made a real effort to pay my tuition, but I failed.”
The school says it’s focused on helping low- and middle-income working parents, often from minority groups. Golf claps.
But it’s not called “helping” when 60 percent of your student body fails the bar… it’s more accurate to say that the school is stealing from them at those passage rates. What’s their 1L orientation like? “Look to the left, look to the right, two of you mostly likely won’t pass the bar, the one of you who does probably won’t get a job. But I’m willing to bet you are all dumb enough to think that I’m joking right now and you’ll sit right there and continue to hand me checks. God, I love running a law school. Mwahahaha.”
In any event, the problem isn’t really this lawsuit, it’s that the fear of lawsuits like this keep the ABA or individual state bars from really regulating law schools. A 40 percent bar passage rate is a pathetically low standard — yet it’s more than the ABA requires. Can you imagine how many schools would have sued the ABA if the organization adopted the California requirement and made it a national standard? Remember, we’re not talking about whether a school like SCIL has the right to run a pathetic law school, we’re talking about whether a law school that can’t even promise to get 40 percent of its graduates to pass the bar needs to be accredited by its state bar. They don’t just want to sell their substandard product, they want a cookie for their efforts.
Not only is the band playing on, but other people on the ship are picking up instruments.
Night Law School Challenges Bar Examiners [Courthouse News Service]