Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

The American Bar Association’s bar passage-rate requirement for law schools may soon become more straightforward but harder to meet.

The ABA committee revising the law school accreditation standards is poised to endorse a new rule that would require at least 80 percent of a school’s graduates to pass the bar within two years of graduation—an increase from 75 percent within five years.

Graduates would have at least five shots at passing the test to help their alma maters meet the 80 percent requirement.

The details might yet change, but there is widespread support for clarifying and strengthening the standard, said committee chairman Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law. "I think it’s fair to say that there is consensus that the current interpretation is meaningless and empty, and thus very misleading," he said.

Law schools, he continued, bear a fiduciary responsibility to prepare students to pass the bar exam.

The ABA’s bar passage standard has long been a source of controversy, partly due to concerns that tighter standards would dissuade law schools from accepting students with lower academic credentials, which might disproportionately shut out minority and low-income applicants.

Before 2008, the ABA spelled out no specific bar-passage minimum. Instead, it enforced what was called the "70/10 Rule": At least 70 percent of a school’s first-time bar takers had to pass the exam in the school’s home state. Alternatively, the first-time bar-pass rate could be no more than 10 percent below the average for other ABA-accredited schools in that state.

But the U.S. Department of Education—which authorizes the ABA to accredit law schools—requested a clearer rule. After much discussion, the ABA in 2008 began requiring that at least 75 percent of a school’s graduates pass the bar exam in at least three of the past five years. Schools can meet the standard if their first-time bar-passage rate is no more than 15 percent below other ABA schools in the same state during three of the past five years. The 15 percent requirement is intended to level the playing field across states, given that passage rates vary widely, depending on jurisdiction.

Committee members now believe the existing standard is too confusing, according to member Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners. "The current alternatives have led to operational complexities that have perhaps gotten in the way of regulation," she said.

Moeser does not anticipate that many schools will have a problem meeting an 80 percent threshold. Additionally, because few law graduates take the bar exam more than five times, the shortened window for bar passage should not be a problem, she said.

Lewis said the committee hopes to agree upon a new standard during its next meeting in July. Any changes would have to be approved by the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com. For more of The National Law Journal’s law school coverage, visit: http://www.facebook.com/NLJLawSchools.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at customercare@alm.com

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2017 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.