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Monday, November 13, 2017
The Search for a Reasonable Bar Pass Rate
In 2014, the University of North Texas Dallas College of Law (UNT) opened its doors with a very unique mission statement. Their stated goal was to help at-risk students to gain law licenses. Translated loosely: UNT was willing to admit students with lower admission credentials and help them become attorneys in Texas. The problem? ABA accreditation. This is a blueprint that has been used many times before, to mixed results.
There are roughly 200 law schools in the country accredited by the American Bar Association. ABA approval is the standard stamp of validation that allows students of the various schools to sit the bar exam in their state. Only one state-California-has made a notable break from the system by creating their own accreditation system. Schools approved by the California Bar Association may sit for the California bar exam and become licensed attorneys in California. Those students may not be allowed to sit bar exams or practice in other states.
In 2016, UNT was denied accreditation by the ABA on the grounds that too many of its students had low LSAT scores, making it less probable that they would be able to pass the Texas bar exam. The school appealed the decision and was granted provisional accreditation in June 2017. The first graduating class took the exam this July with a 59% pass rate. Texas’ overall pass rate was 71%.
Whittier College of Law in California posted a pass rate of just 22% in the July 2016 exam; Whittier, an ABA accredited school, is shuttering its doors in 2019. Like UNT, Whittier prided itself on its diversity and commitment to educating non-traditional students.
While relevant, pass rates alone should not be a death sentence. The state average pass rate in California for the July 2016 bar exam was around 60%. Those quick to blame California's non-ABA accredited goals may want to look at the pass rates for many of the state's reputable law schools. Above The Law
In a system propped up on prestige, it is ironic that pass rates at all but the very top schools in the country post somewhat paltry numbers. It is unfortunate that the very schools that aim to diversify the profession are those most often taking a hit because of it.
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