Law School Continues Fight Over Minimum Bar Passage Rate
Wars over the bar exam continue to rage on. Of course, there is the national debate on if the current version of the bar exam is an adequate or necessary indicator of who gets to be a lawyer and who doesn’t. And as anticipation boils for the release of this summer’s results, a smaller battle continues in California.
In 2012, the State Bar of California created a regulation requiring its state-accredited schools to maintain a five year average of a 40% bar passage rate. Different from larger, nationally accredited schools—like the University of California-Berkeley or the University of Southern California—state accredited schools are much cheaper ($5,000 to $18,000 for annual tuition) and are geared towards lower income law students.
The Southern California Institute of Law, which has campuses in Santa Barbara and Ventura, decided to sue the State Bar soon after saying the regulation is unconstitutional and would thwart the dreams of low income and minority law students. The school’s dean, Stanislaus Pulle, told the L.A. Times he thought the rule was too rigid and would force schools to not accept students they didn’t think would be able to pass the bar.
“It is our responsibility to help those who are new arrivals, who are new immigrants, who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” Pulle told the Times. “Is the only way these students are going to pass is to give them a McDonald’s education or is it to challenge them to think for themselves?”
The case was thrown out by a judge two years ago and another judge dismissed the school’s appeal. Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall (in terms of their bar passage rates), the school filed for another hearing this week. These types of schools largely exist to educate lawyers looking to go into government work or to work specifically with low-income individuals who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the services of many lawyers.
The programs are largely set up as part-time and over four years, so students can continue to work full-time. However, according to the Times, only about 45% of students who enroll in state-accredited schools make it to their final year. Moreover, only about 30% of graduates from the state-accredited schools pass the bar on the first attempt.
Of course, the issue is a moral and ethical one. Should these schools be admitting people who are very likely to invest a lot of money and not end up becoming a lawyer? According to the lawsuit, value can come from trying.
“As individuals, we have the right to pursue our dreams. Even if we cannot always attain them, there is much to be gained from trying, including the realization that something we had long hoped for is perhaps beyond our reach,” the lawsuit argues. “To never have tried may haunt a person for the rest of their life.”
Source: L.A. Times
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