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Proposal To Toughen Law School Standards Rejected

The ABA has rejected a proposal that would have required law schools to have 75% of their graduates pass the bar exam within two years of graduating.

The measure was turned down by a wide measure, with 334 votes against and only 88 in favor, Inside Higher Ed reports.

A Solution In Search of a Problem?

The plan, originally, was proposed with the intent of toughening law school standards.

Supporters of the proposal argue that while select law school grads may take longer than two years to pass the bar, most law grads tend to be able to pass within two years.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Tammi Rice, vice president of Kaplan Bar Review, says the push for the proposal “came from a sense that some law schools are letting too many lower achieving applicants in. In fact, over the past year, bar passage rates in many parts of the country are at record lows. This has left thousands of law school graduates mired in debt, with the inability to practice law.”

Rice says law schools have a responsibility to ensure their grads can successfully pass the bar exam.

“Arguably one of the most important responsibilities of a law school is to help its students succeed on the bar exam,” Rice tells Inside Higher Ed. “Keep in mind that all of the law schools that have recently shuttered or are on the verge of closing down have something in common: a low bar passage rate. This is an important statistic that potential law school students look at.”

Effect On Minority Students

However, critics of the proposal argue that the plan could, in turn, hurt minority law school students.

In a letter to the ABA, legal educators cited that in addition to historically black colleges, “there are other schools that have significant minority enrollments, such as schools in Puerto Rico, most of the schools in California, and other schools across the country. The impact of Standard 316 upon these schools must be studied,” the educators wrote.

Additionally, critics charge that the proposal does not address the impact the new standard could have on schools’ future efforts to reach out to and matriculate diverse applicants.

“The likely result of the proposed changes to Standard 316 is that law schools facing pressure to increase bar passage to maintain accreditation will adjust admissions standards in a way that decreases the diversity of their student bodies,” the educators write. “This potential impact of the proposed changes on diversity in the educational pipeline is left completely unaddressed in the Council’s justification.”

Sources: Inside Higher Ed, ABA