California Law School Deans Want Bar Exam Pass Score Lowered

Deans of 20 law schools make their pitch to the state Supreme Court.

, The Recorder


The deans of 20 California law schools on Wednesday asked the state Supreme Court to temporarily lower the bar exam’s minimum passing score to let the State Bar study whether the number is unjustifiably high.

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What's being said

  • Katherine

    I didn‘t go to a top tier school. I took a three day exam and passed the first time. Why should those that come behind me have to do anything less? I noticed that the people around me who did not pass did not take law school seriously. They wanted to lean from the cheat sheets and summary subject guides and memorize strategy but not pay attention in law school and grasp the concepts of the subject matter. You know, learning? When it comes time to take the exam it is too late to learn what you didn‘t bother to learn in class. Many others were people who should have never been admitted to law school in the first place. Anyway, I probably wouldn‘t be able to stuff all those subjects in my head again.

  • Jack Morgan

    I just got off the phone with the CA State Bar. I noted on the statistics side of their website, all the way up to July 2015, and all the decades prior, the Bar published the results on a school by school basis. As of 2016, that information will no longer be provided. The Bar‘s representative cited "privacy" concerns for the removal of this information. Since 2011, the last ‘peak‘ of combined annual average passing rates (Feb and Jul) of 48% has collapsed to 39% as of 2016. Now, here comes the deans from schools swept up in this downtrend, to complain that the ‘test‘ is ‘too hard‘, or that the scoring threshold for the ‘pass‘ is ‘too high‘. The data suggests that from a statistical peak in 2011 to the last publicly reported results (they were arguably worse in 2016, now hidden from view), these schools on average suffered an overall drop in passing rates up to 30% (overall, first time repeat). With collapsing passing rates and skyrocketing tuition costs, despite how it looks on a resume, $200,000 ‘window dressing‘, considering the potential risk of failure - it happens -, and being stuck with a $2500 monthly student loan payment, and no license to practice law, a smart student might figure out it is better to take another route to get the exact same information at a fraction of the cost. Worst case scenario, the student eats $30,000, but that is a far easier sum to manage, and more than likely the total amount owed out of law school will be much less than that, if anything. Whether or not a person becomes a good attorney has little to do with the law school. And whether or not one passes the bar has absolutely nothing to do with the law school. It has everything to do with the student. Embarrassed by their collapsing passing rates, juxtaposed to the bloated and ever increasing tuition, in the hundreds of thousands, to pass off information one could get almost for free, selling the dream to the student of that big corporate job that does not materialize, and even facing lawsuits from students who could either not pass the bar or get the sort of job the school ‘implied‘ the student could get, all adds up to this desperate plea to the CA State Bar to make the test easier so the schools can look better. I say let them rot. Better a harder test to give the license value for those that pass, and change the paradigm to the economic reality. It should not matter where someone goes to school. The only thing that should matter is did they spend as little as possible of their time and money to get the license (efficiency), and are they a competent attorney. The rest of it is total BS. If the smart kids who score well on the LSAT were REALLY smart, they would walk away from the overpriced gasbag law schools and get the information and the license in a far cheaper way. Given there is the risk one might not pass, the lowest investment of time and money takes the edge off, and prevents a personal disaster. If the student passes the Bar and gets the killer job, awesome. No student loan and massive cash flow, right out of law school. That is the SMART play. The snowflake generation wants it all handed to them. Forget it. Keep the test as it is. What should confer respect is the fact the student passed the demanding bar exam, not that they attended an overpriced school, with a dean that sheds tears because the test is too hard to pass.

  • Darren McKinney, American Tort Reform Association, Washington, D.C.

    Instead of lowering bar standards, why don‘t law schools stop admitting so many marginal students? Furthermore, why aren‘t policymakers pushing to close down many marginal state law schools that provide no benefit to society? Surely we don‘t need any more middling dolts struggling with and defaulting on law school debt, nor do we need any more unscrupulous parasites chasing ambulances and deep pockets in an effort to ease such struggles.

  • John P. Hurabiell


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