Five graduates of Indiana Tech Law School have filed appeals with the Indiana Board of Law Examiners to have their bar exams reviewed, according to the law school’s dean Charles Cercone.
The Fort Wayne law school had only one graduate of its charter class pass the July 2016 Indiana Bar Exam. However since the results were announced, the school has maintained the pass rate could not be determined until the appeals process has been completed.
Cercone, speaking publically for the first time since the bar exam results were announced, said he is confident the law school will turn the results around. The school is offering a “very expensive re-taker program” to the graduates free of charge and is offering other bar prep and doctrinal courses to the graduates and the current third-year students.
“If they do what we tell them to do, they’ll pass,” Cercone said.
At the start of classes in August, Indiana Tech Law School welcomed its largest class ever with 55 new students. Cercone said the law school had a meeting with the student body about the bar results and the students are supportive and committed to working together.
“This is more of a media story than reality because all of them recognize that 12 students is not any kind of representation of our program,” the dean said, referring to the total number of graduates who sat for the July exam.
Cercone was angry about the attention the law school has received since the results were publicized Sept. 12. He said the graduates have been put under a level of scrutiny that graduates of other Indiana law schools have not had to face.
“I understand it’s your job and the media’s job to make law schools look bad, but you overlooked in your zeal to make us look bad that you hurt young men and women trying to take the bar,” Cercone said. “Now these people will be branded for the rest of their careers.”
Cercone said the law school has shared a number of facts internally with the university as to the reasons for the disappointing bar results. He declined to share the details of that memorandum, saying enough damage had been done to the graduates’ reputations.
Going forward, the dean said he is not worried about Indiana Tech Law School’s provisional accreditation, which was granted by the American Bar Association in March 2016. Both he and Barry A. Currier, managing director of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, said the ABA has not been in contact with the school about the bar passage rate.
“I don’t think the ABA would take any action based on one test with 12 students,” Cercone said.
Currier declined to answer whether the dismal passage rate could put the school’s provisional accreditation in jeopardy. Currier said the Council and Accreditation Committee may review a provisionally approved law school’s ongoing efforts to meet compliance standards. But, he noted, that is a confidential process and he declined to speculate about or have any public comment on the matter.
Retired Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard, who led a national examination of law schools as chair of the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education, pointed out the 12 graduates who took the bar was a very small sample and Indiana Tech is just starting to graduate law students.
Still the law school has work to do.
“This number will have to improve a lot if they are going to achieve permanent accreditation,” Shepard said, noting the ABA is considering a rule change that would require law schools to post at least a 75 percent bar passage rate. “Ultimately they will need to achieve a lot better performance to say accredited.”