Back in April 2014, when I gave my infamous Dean candidate presentation to Florida Coastal School of Law, (see also here) I predicted that the class that had just been admitted for the fall of 2014 would surely have less than a 50% bar pass rate in 2017. The numbers for the entering class of 2014: LSAT 147/143/140 and UGPA 3.20/2.93/2.63, were down across the board from 2013 when they were already appallingly low. I also predicted, correctly, that Florida Coastal's bar pass rate would drop below 60% that summer. Well, the 2016 Florida bar exam results are out, and Florida Coastal has underperformed even my low expectations by dropping below 50% a year early, at least in Florida, where most Florida Coastal grads take the bar. Here's the numbers: 16 of 49 Florida Coastal first-time takers passed the February 2016 Florida bar; 83 out of 160 passed the July 2016 Florida bar. The combined total for 2016 is 99 of 209, or 47.4%.
Now, in fairness to Florida Coastal, they were not the worst performing school in Florida this year. Both Barry (where I used to teach, but not since Fall semester 2011, so don’t blame me) and St. Thomas had a 45% combined first-time bar pass rate in Florida this year, with 98 of 217 Barry first-time takers passing (45.2%), compared to 81 of 180 for St. Thomas (45.0%).
Based on these results, Florida Coastal may arguably be doing a better job at educating high-risk students than either of these two non-profit private Catholic schools, given that Barry’s and St. Thomas’s 2013 entering classes, although very weak, were stronger on paper than Florida Coastal’s, as seen in this chart:
2013 Admitted Student Profiles from ABA Standard 509 Information Reports
School 75/50/25 LSAT 75/50/25 GPA Entering Class Size
Barry 151/147/145 3.20/2.90/2.59 283
St. Thomas 150/147/145 3.33/3.06/2.78 261
Florida Coastal 148/144/141 3.26/2.97/2.69 441
I say “arguably”, because we would also have to look at issues like academic attrition and transfer attrition to get a more accurate assessment of who is graduating and taking the bar. But although Florida Coastal could have done worse (like their InfiLaw sister schools, Charlotte and Arizona Plummet, I mean, Summit), let’s not lose sight of the big picture, more than half, over a 100, of their recent graduates failed the bar. A sub-50% first-time pass rate, especially on an easy bar like Florida’s (I took and passed the Florida bar in February 2014), is an abomination, and is a direct result of the exploitative admissions policies that I tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade them to abandon.
So what should we make of the results at Barry and St. Thomas? These bar results provide strong validation of my LSAT risk bands, reproduced below:
David Frakt’s LSAT Score Risk Bands
156-180 Minimal Risk
153-155 Low Risk
150-152 Modest Risk
147-149 High Risk
145-146 Very High Risk
120-144 Extreme Risk
Law schools considering admitting applicants in the high and extreme risk categories should ensure that they have other indicators, such as above average college grades, which suggest they will outperform their LSAT scores. Otherwise, schools are simply setting up the majority of these students for failure. While it may be reasonable to accept a small number of students with weak LSAT scores who appear, for other reasons, to have the capacity to succeed, no law school should ever admit 25% or more students at 144 or below, unless they can prove that they have a sustained record of high success rates with such students. (I don’t think there currently are any such schools, but I leave open that possibility.)
Incidentally, Barry and St. Thomas, which do not have a proven track record of success with such high risk students, both admitted even weaker classes in 2014 than the 2013 class that just bombed the Florida bar, with a bottom 25% LSAT at 144 at both schools. That does not bode well for next year at either of these schools.
The ABA should take action against all three of these schools, such as they have done recently at Ave Maria, to ensure that they discontinue their irresponsible admissions practices.