Are Lawyers Getting Dumber?
Just when the doom-and-gloom about law schools had seemingly subsided, Natalie Kitroeff of Bloomberg Businessweek produced a fantastic cover story examining the war raging between the National Conference of Board Examiners (NCBE) and lower-ranked law schools.
If you don’t remember, the results for the July 2014 bar exam were relatively poor. Passage rates dropped by 15% in Idaho (from 80% to 65%). In Delaware, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas, passage rates all dropped by nine percentage points. This caused Erica Moeser, the head of the NCBE, to issue a letter to every dean at an American Bar Association-accredited law school. Moeser wrote of the poor results and concluded that the July 2014 test takers were “less able” than the 2013 cohort.
This led to outrage from some law school deans. Two weeks after the letter, 79 law school deans sent a letter back asking for a full investigation into the results. Moeser and the NCBE stonewalled. Brooklyn Law School Dean Nick Allard has been the most outspoken dean against Moeser and the NCBE. And, as Kitroeff’s article notes, the gloves are off and the fight is getting personal.
“Her response was the height of arrogance,” Allard told Kitroeff. “That statement was so demonstrably false, so corrosive.”
Allard took it to another level when he realized Moeser is from Wisconsin—the only state that doesn’t require bar passage to practice law for its resident lawyers. “The person who is the czarina, who determines more and more every year what Americans have to learn to pass the bar to become licensed lawyers … never took the bar,” Allard told Kitroeff. “Who is she to say what the standard is? Who is she?”
Rest assured, Moeser fired back. When meeting with Kitroeff, she grabbed a chart of LSAT scores at the 25th percentile at all ABA-accredited schools. Allard’s Brooklyn Law School has seen its 25th percentile LSAT scores drop by 9 points since 2010—that’s more than 196 other law schools.
Bickering aside, Moeser brings up the real issue. Schools are accepting students with lower LSAT scores to fill seats and attempt to mitigate the fact that people are less interested in earning a law degree. According to Kitroeff’s article, 2015 applications to law schools declined again.
So, are lawyers getting dumber? It depends who you ask. Moeser insists that schools are sacrificing quality in students at the expense of quantity and her job is to “protect the consumer” in keeping unqualified lawyers from practicing. Allard maintains the bar is an unnecessarily and unfair way to determine who gets to be a lawyer and who doesn’t.
Still, Moeser anticipates scores to drop again when the 2015 bar results come out in September. “I don’t anticipate a rebound,” she tells Kitroeff.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek
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