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ABA House of Delegates again rejects revised bar passage standard

January 29, 2019

The American Bar Association House of Delegates has again rejected a proposal that would have required at least 75 percent of law graduates pass their bar exam within two years of graduation.  

Delegates defeated the returning measure during yesterday’s 2019 ABA Midyear Meeting by a vote of 334-88.

Language in the proposed Resolution 105 would have revised Standard 316 to require at least 75 percent of a law school’s graduates who sit for a bar examination to pass within two years of their graduation date. A similar proposal was brought before the House of Delegates in February 2017 by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, but was ultimately rejected under scrutiny that some students, including minorities, would be overlooked.

The council addressed those concerns in November, arguing that no evidence from its data collected school-by-school supported conclusions that law schools would use a bar passage standard as a basis for diminishing its commitment to diversity. However, the measure was once again rejected due to concerns about what the change could mean for diversity in the profession. 

Former ABA president Paulette Brown spoke against the resolution during the meeting, cautioning that the change could hurt schools with heavy minority student bodies, the ABA reported.

After the final vote, Barry Currier, managing director for the ABA law school accreditation process, stated that under ABA rules and procedures the council could either abandon the effort to revise the standard; propose a different revision; or reaffirm and implement the changes. The council meets again Feb. 21-23.

“The council understands this is a complex matter,” Currier said, adding that it will consider a report on the concerns of the House of Delegates before making a final decision.

Under ABA procedures, the House of Delegates can review a change in ABA legal education standards twice, but the Council can enact the change without the House’s concurrence.

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