Somewhere in Wisconsin, Erica Moeser could be having one big “I told you so moment.” Moeser is the president and CEO of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), the nonprofit that governs the Multi-State Bar Exam (MBE). She’s also the one who riled nearly 80 law school deans around this time last year when she accused their schools of admitting “less able” students.
This isn’t a laughing matter, but if it were, Moeser would be getting the final chuckle. That’s because across the nation, bar pass rates have dropped again from last year’s historically low number. New York, California, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and many others all watched their bar pass rates fall again this year.
“As demand for law schools has dropped over the last few years, law schools, as a result, have been admitting and graduating less-qualified students,” Derek Muller, an associate professor at Pepperdine University School of Law told the National Law Journal.
Muller tracks bar exam results on his blog, Excess of Democracy, and is usually the first to report scores when they are released by states. And he’s got a point. Law school applicants have dropped from more than 87,000 in 2010 to just over 54,000 this year. And as Muller notes to the National Law Journal, law schools have let in less-qualified students and those lax admissions standards are “manifesting” now in poor bar pass rates.
“It is reasonable to believe we are capturing the results of a downward trend in applications that has not been completely matched by a downward trend in law school admissions,” Moeser told National Law Journal.
The National Law Journal reports pass rates are hitting historically low state-by-state levels. California’s pass rate, which was 46.6%, is two percentage points lower than last year and the lowest since 1986. New York’s pass rate of 70% is four percentage points lower than last year and the lowest since 2004. In Pennsylvania, pass rates dropped by more than four percentage points to 71.2%–the lowest since 2003.
It’s hard to say when or if pass rates will make a climb back up, but as Moeser and Muller both note, it’s likely not going to happen until admissions offices boost standards back to pre-Great Recession levels.
Source: The National Law Journal
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