Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Score's Down Bills Up

No that is not the latest sports report but the one about law schools and graduation rates.

Law schools facing diminishing prospects are not looking at new ways to build law education, such as paralegal or pro se education available to enable small business owners, prospective future Lawyers or others interested in learning a specific set of law, no. Instead what they do best is lower the bar (pun intended).

To keep classes full they are admitting students whose LSAT tests, the precursor to the bar exam, have lower to marginal scores that indicate the more challenging and necessary bar exam needed to practice law.

Now again I am not a great believer in testing, we are obsessed with it as some magic 8 ball way of indicting futrue sucess and general "with it ness"  There are many facctors that contribute to both high and low test scores: Tutoring, Excellent memory, poor test taking skills, stress, nutrition, age and of course scholastic achievement.

In a feld that lacks persons of color and espectially one whose second langauge is English, tests are often noghitn but a block to the unicorn of meritocracy.  So there are many ways to ensure passing and doing well on both tests.  Having the opportuntiy it apprectice to work as a paralegal or researcher which are al ot of the gigs overseas could open up cheaper and more access to those with legal skills and resources.

I do think that all schools must be transparent with graduation rates, student loan dets and of course debt to income ratio that follows students once graduated. But there are may ways having a certificate of law can be usefu and that is a possiblity that might be of benefit for many and not the few which the law is as of now.

And I think that is largely the real problem, lawyers concerned that inadequate but desperate new lawyers will siphon whatever business they can, that it will further clot up an already tumor laden industry. So you think its bad now, imagine ambulance bus chasers times 10, even stupider.


Study Cites Lower Standards in Law School Admissions

By ELIZABETH OLSON
The New York Times
OCT. 26, 2015

As law schools across the country try to keep their classrooms full, many are admitting students with lesser qualifications, including those with a lower admissions test score — considered an important predictor of whether a graduate will earn the credentials to practice law.

About a third of the 204 accredited law schools had entering classes last year with at least 25 percent of the class consisting of “at risk” students, or those with law school admissions test scores of below 150, according to a new study by Law School Transparency, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

Law school admissions scores closely mirror the final results of the state bar exams, which graduates must pass to qualify as licensed lawyers. Many in legal education consider a score of 150 as a telling dividing line between future success or failure.

“Too many law schools are filling their entering classes with people who face serious risk of not passing the bar exam,” said Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, which he helped to found six years ago to promote more open law school practices. He said that last year 45 schools, up from eight in 2010, admitted seriously at-risk students.

Most law schools maintain that test scores are only one indicator, albeit an important one, of the ability to pass the bar. They also say they need flexibility in selecting students to assure a diverse population of lawyers.

Yet many schools are also facing pressure from plummeting enrollments — the lowest in decades. Law school enrollment reached a peak in 2010, as many students fled a troubled economy to the schools’ safe harbor. With a swelling crop of students, bar passage rates soared, but it all began to come apart quickly when jobs in law seemed to melt away overnight as the industry adjusted to a changed economy.

Threatening to further weaken laws schools’ position, initial reports from states show that bar passage rates this year are again slumping.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners, a Madison, Wis., organization that oversees the 200-question multiple choice portion of the exam given in most states, found that overall results slipped again, to the lowest point since 1988.

Most states have yet to report the complete results of their July 2015 bar exam, but early numbers paint a dismal picture.

In Oklahoma and New Mexico, for example, the bar passage rates fell by double digits. Oklahoma’s rate tumbled 11 percent, to 68 percent, and New Mexico’s fell 12 percent, to 72 percent, according to Derek T. Muller, a Pepperdine Law School professor who collects the results and posts them on his blog, Excess of Democracy. Arizona was even lower, with an overall passage rate of 65.7 percent this year.

Law graduates typically can take the test over, and repeaters nudge up the pass rate. But the tumbling outcomes for first-time test takers are spurring debate over whether law schools should be admitting students who score poorly on the entry test. The top scores on the multiple-choice exam are between 156 and 180. Scores below 150 are viewed by many as warnings that test takers lack the skills necessary to practice law.

At least two studies, including one this year that examined admissions exam scores from 2000 to 2011, have concluded that scores on the test, administered by the Law School Admission Council, closely track later bar passage rates.

Mr. McEntee of Law School Transparency, a graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School, said his group’s recent study showed that many schools were admitting students whose lack of legal aptitude made them vulnerable to failing the bar. And, at the same time, they are incurring six-figure student debt that will weigh them down in the future.

The steady erosion in admissions scores between 2010 and 2014, Mr. McEntee, said in his study, is “directly linked to the falling bar exam passage rates in many states.”

One school the study deems as having too many students at high risk is Southern Illinois University School of Law, in Carbondale, Ill. The school, which largely draws its students from Kentucky and Missouri, as well as Illinois, slimmed down its class size to 121 students, from 144 students in 2010. In the last five years, its median law school admissions test score also dropped — to 149 from 153, according to figures it provided to accreditors.

“Our experience has been that someone with a 147 score could pass the bar and someone else with 160 could fail, so we don’t think that there is necessarily a relationship between the test and people’s ability to pass the bar,” said Christopher Behan, the school’s associate dean.

Since 2010, Southern Illinois’s bar passage rate also fell 5 percentage points, to 85.54 percent, according to the school’s figures. To help students pass the bar, the school offers a free summer bar preparation course as well as a separate course in the spring. It also added another bar preparation course during the current fall semester.

Mr. Behan insisted that law school remained a winning proposition, noting that 64.8 percent of its 2014 graduates had full-time jobs requiring a juris doctor degree and bar passage — outpacing the 59.9 percent national placement figure.

Other schools, such as the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, chose to shrink class sizes instead. In the face of low bar passage rates, the school lopped off its lowest 25 percent of students and recruited those with strong grade point averages and admissions test scores.

“We had to deal with a dreadful problem with bar passage. The passage rate was 57 percent, so we were 18 percent below the state’s average pass rate,” said Martin J. Katz, the school’s dean.

“We had egg on our faces and our graduates were up in arms,” Mr. Katz recalled. And since most of its graduates remain in the Denver area, those were sentiments the school could not ignore, he added.

“Despite 100 different theories, only a few things correlated: admissions scores and grade point averages,” he said. “We used any combination of them that gave the student a pass rate.”

For students, the current landscape of fewer legal jobs and higher debt means they want more information when considering law school.

Aaron P. Sohaski, who will graduate next year from Thomas Cooley Law School in Michigan, said law schools “need to be more transparent about what the outcomes can be.”

Such information “needs to be proactive because people don’t always notice all the details,” said Mr. Sohaski, who was chairman of the American Bar Association student law division in 2014-15.

While most law schools say no drastic changes are needed, Rebecca W. Berch, retired chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, who is currently chairwoman of the A.B.A.’s national accrediting body for legal education, said: “I’d like law schools to be up-front, telling students that your indicators say you may not have what it takes to pass the bar.”

Justice Berch said that there has been debate over instituting a “mini bar” to test students after their first year of law school, but noted that it would be difficult and expensive to administer to about 40,000 students yearly. California demands what is called a baby bar for first-year students at for-profit schools in the state, but that affects a smaller number of students.

Such warnings are not sufficient, said Mr. McEntee, who is urging the A.B.A. to tighten standards now because student debt is rising, with an average of $118,670 in 2014, plus interest.

That rising debt, most of it from federal loans, has raised concerns among federal lawmakers like Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, who says that the A.B.A. “accreditation is like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval, so consumers look to the accrediting body for answers, when some law schools fall short.”

At-risk law students, Mr. McEntee said, “have little chance of gainful employment in order to pay off the debt they are accumulating.”

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