Bar Exams, Law Schools

Harder Michigan Bar Is Here To Stay

We’re now in year two of the Michigan “let’s make the bar exam more difficult” plan. In 2012, the Michigan Board of Law Examiners changed the weight it gives to the essay questions, with the goal of producing lawyers with a better understanding of state law. I don’t know, there are probably all sorts of things that don’t apply to automakers in Michigan that you’d never see on the Multistate section.

This makes the bar more difficult and more stupid at the same time. It’s harder to answer an essay question than a multiple choice event where you can make an educated guess, but it’s also dumber to administer a “standardized” test that relies heavily on the individual tastes of essay graders.

In any event, the results from the July 2012 bar exam were predictably horrific. Only 55% of test takers passed the July 2012 test. Cooley totally embarrassed itself, even by Cooley standards, with only 42% of test takers from that school passing.

This year, 60% of test takers passed the July 2013 Michigan Bar. So that’s better, though still pretty rough. Cooley, again, covered itself in glory by posting a 43% pass rate. But all the law schools have complained about Michigan’s new, harder exam.

And the Michigan BOLE doesn’t care. Law schools in Michigan better raise their game, because the game ain’t changing….

Here’s the full school breakdown for the Michigan July 2013 bar:

Jesus. Just for fun, if you remove Cooley and Detroit Mercy from the data set, the pass rate among test takers from Michigan law schools jumps to over 70%. So… “the bar is too hard thing” isn’t really a problem for everybody in Michigan. The University of Michigan seems to be doing just fine with the new scoring.

And that’s ironic, because students at the University of Michigan, even if they stay in-state and take their home bar, are the ones least likely to be drowning in the kind of local minutiae that the Michigan BOLE seems to regard as important. As our flyover country freelancer explains, a state like Michigan is sure to have big corporate clients who need to be serviced with a generalist’s flair as anywhere else. So I’m not really sure what going out of your way to localize the exam is really accomplishing.

Of course, any law that takes place west of the Hudson doesn’t seem to accomplish very much to me. The Michigan Board of Law Examiners defended itself in an email to Michigan Lawyers Weekly:

There was dialogue between the BLE and the law schools last spring and into the summer. Justice [Brian K.] Zahra heard and responded to the law schools’ concerns. He also made it clear that scaling was eliminated for the protection of the public, and that, for that reason, the BLE would not return to scaling the exam. The BLE continues its efforts to ensure that the public is protected, through the fair administration of an examination that tests for minimum knowledge of Michigan law

I’d disagree, but again, the University of Michigan seems to be able to do it. If there’s one school that’s going to focus on “national” and “theoretical” aspects of law instead of on the ground, local practice issues, it’s the University of Michigan. And yet, students there do okay. If you are Detroit Mercy, graduating students who have little chance at out-of-state job prospects, how are you barely getting half of your students to pass the state bar?

I’m just saying that maybe it’s not the bar that is “too hard.” Maybe it’s that the bar to get into law school is too low?

Bar exam changes set, law schools still unhappy [Michigan Lawyers Weekly]

Earlier: Test Takers Tank On The July 2012 Michigan Bar Exam

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