I used a good part of my latest Am Law Daily article criticizing the ABA’s bar passage requirements in its accreditation standards, so I would disserve readers by not bringing up the recently proposed standard that would overhaul and standardize the bar passage requirement. (By “standardize” I’m pointing out that the current bar passage requirement (PDF) is just an interpretation deep in the general requirement that law schools prepare people for the bar.) Here’s what the proposed standard says (PDF):
Standard 315. BAR PASSAGE
(a) No later than the end of the second calendar year following their graduation, 80% of the graduates who took a bar examination must have passed a bar examination.
(b) A fully approved law school must demonstrate compliance with this Standard in three of the most recently completed five calendar years.
In some ways this is an improvement over the current interpretation. Now, law schools have to track down graduates from as many as five years into the past to find out if they passed the bar, which, as some deans reported to the ABA Journal, is a difficult, tedious task.
The key difference, though, is that the proposed standard requires 80 percent of graduates who take a bar exam to pass it. This means that law schools that admit applicants who have little hope of ever passing a bar exam might instead discourage them from trying to take one at all. Then again, this might be an awkward conversation, especially if it’s accompanied by a cash payment. “Hi graduate. You put a lot of effort into becoming a lawyer, but if you stop to think about it, maybe the bar exam would be a little too hard for you. Here’s $2,000 to consider an ‘alternative’ career for using your JD. You get cash; we get to keep enrolling students who can’t pass the bar. Deal?”
However, the proposed standard does away with the 15-percent-first-time-passage-rate-within-the-state’s-mean-rate requirement, which allows the schools in Puerto Rico to almost certainly maintain their accreditation.
Here’s an apples-to-oranges comparison from the Official Guide:
First-time bar passage isn’t the same as two-calendar-year bar passage, but my guess is that under the proposed standard Pontifical Catholic would lose its accreditation, maybe Inter American too.