Earlier today, the ABA voted against the amendments proposed last month to Standard 316 (Bar Passage) of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools. This proposal sought to eliminate the clause that allowed schools to show a 75% bar passage rate in three of the preceding five years and eliminate the clause that exempted schools in jurisdictions where the annual first-time bar passage rate was no more than 15 points below the average of ABA-approved law schools.
As TaxProf Blog noted on Saturday, currently 18 law schools would have failed the proposed bar passage requirement. Arizona Summit, the school with the lowest bar passage rate of 59.7%, already has its teach-out plan approved. Another, Valparaiso, which has a 69.4% bar passage rate, is already slated to close in May 2020. Upon examining TaxProf Blog’s list of schools, we noted that North Dakota and South Dakota would both have lost their only law schools and Puerto Rico would lost two of its three. (We believe University of North Dakota and University of South Dakota would have acted swiftly to raise their admission standards and reduce their class sizes to remain accredited.)
Proponents of this failed proposal were quick to note that the overall bar passage rate is about 88% within two years. Therefore, they reasoned, a 75% requirement was not overly strict.
The failed proposal will undoubtedly delight those who are pushing for greater diversity in the law profession. However, it won’t address the excess supply of law school seats that this proposal would have helped eliminate. For this reason alone, we expect to see the proposal appear again relatively soon in one form or another.