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December 04, 2015


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I think that no law professor - in particular one at Whittier law school should be allowed to make this sort of post without addressing the hard issues about their law school.

So since links tend to get caught in the SPAM filter, let's look at what Sheldon Bernard Lyke did not say when he mentioned "Whittier Law School—one of the law schools that LST has labelled as high-risk and the results he chose not to discuss, which are really quite shameful. And by the way, these really quite appalling outcomes are highlighted by LST, which is probably why it is a deeply unpopular organisation at the Faculty Lounge of Whittier.

Employment Score 25.8% - that is to say only ¼ of Whittier grads are successfully starting a career as lawyers on graduation - ONE QUARTER!! Search Whittier's bar passage rate for an independent 3rd party and it comes in for July and first time bar passage for 2014 was 42.7% less than ½! California as a whole was 69.4% In February 2015 the pass rate was an astonishing 30% - yep less than ⅓

But here is the thing - google "Whittier Bar Passage rate" and here is what pops up from Whittier itself:

"Taking the February 2014 General Bar Exam for the first time, 76.47% of Whittier Law School graduates passed. The overall passage rate for first-time takers of the February 2014 exam is 69% for California ABA-accredited schools, which Whittier Law School bested by more than seven points."

I mean hey, wow, Whittier is doing really really well on the California Bar Exam, according to Whittier.

Seriously, a professor at Whittier took time two write a screed accusing LST of dishonesty - I'm not sure that the administration of Whittier should be considered of sufficient moral character to be admitted to the bar.

Sheldon, you deserve vilification.


"Dangerous," Sheldon?

A couple of thoughts. Why use the LSAT at all in admissions? What's the point in using it if not as a benchmark of academic potential and selectivity?

If it's largely irrelevant, why were schools more LSAT-selective in the past than they are now? Was the LSAT recently revealed to be irrelevant, changing the approach for law admissions for ever and ever amen from this point forward? I'd be more receptive to the argument that the LSAT is just one measure, and a weak one if there weren't recent NY State bar studies refuting it and if law schools had ever, ever acted that way in the past -- which we all know they didn't. Only when the well ran dry did you begin to challenge the LSAT. That is known in the oil industry as "talking your book."

Another comment not specific to the LSAT -
Law school profs are fine critics, but poor governors. On this issue, law schools, you are in charge. You don't get to pass the buck or pretend that LST is some powerful organization that you get to criticize. You are bigger, more powerful, and in charge vis-a-vis LST, so they get to criticize you. That's how it works. You can criticize tax policy, or Washington, or originalists, or living constitutionalists, or Republicans, or Democrats, or the Courts, or agency interpretations, or . . . , and be an outsider. Frankly, that's what most legal scholarship is -- criticism. That's fine, and there's a place for it. But when you are in charge and your conduct is scrutinized, you do not get to do ju juitsu to pretend that a tiny organization with one marginally paid employee but a powerful message is some big "paternalistic" threat to the rule of law.


I stopped reading after the first paragraph when I figured out that “Lower tiered law schools that admit students with low LSAT scores should be celebrated for providing an opportunity” was not tongue-in-cheek.

Look SBL, it’s one thing for schools to take a risk on these students. But that’s not happening. Florida Coastal charged $43K last year with 46% of students paying full price. But FCSL had 0% risk of not being paid for any of those 106+ students they enrolled who had a 140 or lower LSAT and have a liklihood (statistically speaking) of never using their degree.

That isn’t virtuous on the part of FCSL. That’s a scam. Impose a risk—a financial risk, of course, because they obviously don’t care about prestige—on FCSL and I’ll read the rest of the article.


Brave post. I guess too nuanced for law school crits...


Brave - I think oblivious is a better word. ¼ of Whittier graduates secure legal employment, less than ⅓ to ½ pass the bar exam at the first sitting and the opening statement is:

"Lower tiered law schools that admit students with low LSAT scores should be celebrated for providing an opportunity to enter the legal profession for those students at the margins of society."

Really. You think it's brave?

Brave would be addressing the ¾ who never get enter the legal profession having paid $42,400 in tuition per year, a cost of attendance of over $70,000 p.a., who are borrowing $200,000 to have a 75% chance of not having that legal career.


Several years ago I had the misfortune of being a professor at a TTT/TTTT law school, and let me assure you that it was predatory.

To the point where I quit working there after only one year rather than continue to be associated with it and also reported its shenanigans to the ABA.

Which did nothing, of course. Which is a big part of the problem.


Sheldon - your school (Whittier) had the lowest bar passage rate of any California ABA school last July, with only 42% of first time takers passing. Regardless of your feelings about the LSAT as a predictor of bar passage, Whittier does a terrible job of identifying students with a strong likelihood of passing the bar nevermind having success in the profession. Coincidently (or not), the LSAT profile for Whittier's students is terrible. Your argument would carry more force if you were defying the odds, not proving LST right.



1) Many students don't pay such tuition because they receive scholarships (or so I assume).

2) Most of the students pass the bar eventually--albeit the second time.

3) Many great students with low LSAT transfer after the first year.

4) Whittier, it seems, is one of the most diverse law schools in the nation. In California, where only 4.2 percent of Latinos are members of the bar--low tier law schools play an important role.


"Instead, LST’s strategy is at high risk of keeping black and brown people, and the poor from having the opportunity to ever sit for a bar."

And you accuse LST of paternalism?

If you want to provide the opportunity for members of disadvantaged communities to have the opportunity to sit for a bar, despite the high likelihood that simply by attending Whittier they will be unable to find a job as an attorney, then do not charge $42,400 a year in tuition. That is outrageous. And the tuition -- and your generous salary which it pays -- is the main issue here. It also makes your argument here very self-serving, which neither you nor any of the other law professors attacking LST have ever actually addressed. Because you personally benefit from the status quo, it is incumbent on you to better argue why we should agree with your position that the "opportunity to sit for the bar" is worth $42,400 of taxpayer funds a year.


Whittier (now) has a much better employment rate than it had in the past. According to the NALP report (available here: 65% of the 2014 class had JD required or JD advantage job.


@ Reading - those figures are astonishing in light of a 42% July California bar pass rate for that same class.


@ JM--I see why. I guess because JD advantage does not require bar passage.


@ Reading - I understood that. It is still a ridiculous claim. It must required near 100% of bar passers in JD required jobs, which is just ridiculous given the stats from much higher ranked schools like Pepperdine, Davis, Santa Clara etc.


I am with JM in thinking that there is something fishy about those numbers, but even accepting them at face value they do not support the decision to go to Whittier, particularly if you are someone at risk of not passing the bar.

The breakdown lists that out of the 194 students reporting for the survey, only 64 (or 32%) had bar passage required jobs. Assuming their sampling methodology is legitimate, that would mean that 75% of the students who passed the bar had JD required jobs. Not 100%, but definitely still suspiciously high for a school with Whittier's reputation and the glut of lawyers.

What's interesting is the median salary for JD-advantaged jobs is listed as $50,000. Sounds impressive, until you realize that the median salary for someone with less than 1 year of experience in the Los Angeles area is $50,759 (with many of those people likely having only bachelor's degrees). It also suggests that the school may be taking a very liberal reading of "JD advantage," and in any case does not seem to support the idea that $120,000+ of nondischargeable debt for a 65% chance at a $50-60k job is really worth it.

confused by your post

Professor Lykes,

Your post attacks the use of the LSAT as a means of evaluating law school applicants for admission. What methods of applicant evaluation do you propose as an alternative (other than an open admissions policy)? You are clearly aware of certain obvious items that are likely better predictors of bar passage than the LSAT. Unfortunately, useful predictors that manifest AFTER law school admission (i.e. applicant GPA in law school) aren't helpful to a law school admissions office evaluating applicants. Other useful predictors (race and parents' SES) are problematic.

It is easy to criticize something (especially if you have massive self-interest in doing so). It is harder to come up with solutions. We've heard your criticism regarding the LSAT. What predictors would you ask law schools to look at when evaluating law school applicants and how accurate do you feel such predictors are?


@ JM -- the report indicates 34% JD required job, while you mentioned 42% percent CA bar pass rate. So it means 80% of those who passed have secured a JD required job. Also, they must have graduates who passed the bar in other states. (Perhaps the employment figures include also those who took the Feb. bar?)

Additionally, it makes sense that there is a correlation between the numbers: likely the top students of the class are those who passed and also those who found job more easily.



You are obviously bright and accomplished. Like you, I taught at a low-ranked law school. I made all the arguments you make. You have to make those arguments to convince yourself that you are not part of the problem. I understand. It was a wonderful, rewarding, flexible job, and I did not want to leave.

At the end of the day, however, most of your students, like most of mine, are worse off after graduating from your law school. You can deceive yourself by keeping in tough with the handful of graduates that, by luck, connections, or brilliance, land lucrative or fulfilling legal jobs, but if you are honest, most of your students will never get a reasonable return on their investment. The vast majority of your students at Whittier are not given opportunity by their JD, but rather are given a financial burden that will crush them.

Again, you are smart. You can poke holes in LST's work. Congratulations. You have a PHD and a JD from elite schools; you should be able to do that, even with work from much more sophisticated people. But you should be seeking the truth. And do you actually think that the vast majority of your students are better off after obtaining their law degree from your school? Have you surveyed your graduates? Have you kept in touch with the ones who failed the bar multiple times? Again, you have a wonderful job, but at some point you may realize that most low ranked law schools create more burdens than opportunities.


KayLa, that was a refreshingly honest perspective. I hope Sheldon responds.


@Shawn and @KayLa: as JM stated, thank you for your refreshingly honest perspectives. We would like to hear more of your (redacted) stories, should you be willing to share them. I'm sure that OTLSS and others would be happy to host.


I wonder if Professor Lyke can find anyone who agrees with his argument without having a financial incentive to do so.

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