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ABA bar exam standard fails

February 7, 2017

The American Bar Association House of Delegates rejected a proposal to link law school accreditation to higher bar passage rates.

At the mid-year meeting in Miami, the delegates voted down the rule change offered by the ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to require accredited law schools to have 75 percent of their graduates who take the bar exam pass within two years of graduation.

The debate lasted more than an hour as opponents and supporters of Resolution 110B raised concerns about economics and diversity. According to the ABA Journal, groups against the proposal called for more analysis to determine whether such a rule would negatively impact minority students. Advocates for the change countered that holding law schools to a tighter standard would prevent unqualified students from enrolling and incurring large amounts of student loan debt they will have trouble repaying.

Opponents soundly defeated the resolution in a voice vote.

Under ABA rules, the proposed change will go back to the council for more consideration. The council could either bring the resolution before the House again or decide on its own how to proceed.    

The House of Delegates concurred to simplify several provisions in the accreditation standards. In particular, one change would clamp down on law schools that have high dropout or failure rates.

Standard 501 holds that law schools must admit only student who appear capable of satisfactorily completing the J.D. program and passing the bar exam.  Under a proposed revision to that standard, law schools that have a cumulative non-transfer attrition rates above 20 percent per class could be found to be out of compliance with ABA accreditation criteria.      
 

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