ABA Passes New Bar Passage Standard

ABA Passes New Bar Passage Standard

Bar passage standards for law schools just got tougher.

Law.com reports that the American Bar Association voted last Friday to approve a new standard, known as 316, that requires 75% of a law school’s graduates who sit for the bar to pass the exam within two years.

“These revisions provide more straightforward and clear expectations for law schools, and establish measures and process that are more appropriate for today’s environment. Most students go to law school to become lawyers,” Barry Currier, managing director for the ABA law school accreditation process, says in a press release. “Becoming a lawyer requires passing the bar exam. How well a school’s graduates perform on the bar exam is a very important accreditation tool to assess the school’s program of legal education.”

Previous Standard “Too Complicated”

Previously, law schools would have five years to meet the 75% passage rate. However, advocates for the change say the five-year measuring period was too complicated to administer and that no school was ever found out of compliance.

“The Council has long understood that this is a complex matter and appreciates the attention this proposal received in the past by the ABA House of Delegates and other stakeholders in the legal education community,” Currier says.

Opponents of the changes argue that they could negatively affect law schools with large minority student bodies

Back in 2016, Robert R. Furnier, a partner in the Furnier Muzzo Group LLC, a law firm in Cincinnati, Ohio, wrote a piece arguing why Standard 316 could disproportionality impact Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

“Bar passage rates may be a critical variable in the equation to determine whether a law school is properly preparing its students for the practice of law,” Furnier writes for Law Practice Today. “The HBCU deans do not oppose a standard tied to bar passage. They simply feel that figuring out that magic number ought to be the subject of intense study before endangering the accreditation of any law school.”

However, the ABA stresses that bar exam passage is critical to the profession.

“Most students go to law school to become lawyers. Becoming a lawyer requires passing the bar exam. How well a school’s graduates perform on the bar exam is a very important accreditation tool to assess the school’s program of legal education,” Currier says.

Sources: Law.com, American Bar Association, Law Practice Today