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September 13, 2016

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anon

David

Not only InfiLaw. Take a look at schools like Golden Gate, where perhaps the incoming class predictors are not quite as bleak (to what, then, should the ABA attribute bar pass performance in such instances)?

As argued recently in another thread, law professors are measured by "evals" and "classroom visits" by biased peers. The truest measure would be to compare the output - the learning of the students - on an objective measure. THe bar exam, to some extent, does that (at least, at the lowest level "opportunity schools" who claim to work magic with persons who had poor predictors, like UNT).

And, we can see the result. Lazy, marginally competent instruction at the lowest rung of law schools, combined with an arrogant entitlement mentality ("we are, after all, law professors!"), means that even a three year bar review course can't train college graduates to pass the bar in acceptable numbers. (And, BTW, the "eventual" bar pass rate is so misleading, as employment, employment opportunities and income all suffer dramatic hits when a candidate needs to take the bar two or three times to pass it. Remember, the bar is an exam to determine MINIMUM competence.)

THe ABA, once again, is demonstrated to be an outdated, hidebound anachronism. The current crop of ABA "officials" are just not capable of handling the important mission of this organization.

Leo

Conison was a high ranking member of the ABA Section of Legal Ed and served on the Accreditation Committee. Another example of how the lowest ranking law schools control the Section.

Always wondered why he left Valpo for Charlotte, of all places. Probably wanted to be far away when the you know what hit the fan. Probably didn't
get a better offer.

anon

This post would be more illuminating were it not framed almost solely in ad hominem terms aimed at Dean Conison. Surely there's more to a school's bar passage rates, good or bad, than the actions of one person, even if that one person is the Dean, no? If Charlotte's bar passage rate was really high rather than really low, I assume this post would not read "Congratulations to Dean Conison for his heroic efforts, which single-handedly improved Charlotte's bar passage rate."

The view that any single person should get all the credit or all the blame for anything at an institution as complex as a law school is rather reductionist. The faculty (both in terms of teaching and in terms of admissions decisions), the staff (to the extent they're involved in bar preparation), and yes, the students, are all part of the equation. That's not to say that their Dean doesn't have significant authority and significant responsibility to work to improve their bar passage rates: to the contrary, he certainly does. But to paint this as the sole fault/responsibility of one person is disingenuous.

(To be clear: I have no connection to Conison or Charlotte and have no stake in what happens there.)

Anon

anon -

Saying that the faculty has any input into the admissions practices of schools like Charlotte, Arizona Summit, etc, beyond token affirmation intended to rubber stamp decisions made by MBA-types, is shockingly naive and just obviously untrue. Do you really think the faculty is sitting down and saying "I wish we had more 140 LSAT's"? They get handed the class the administration admits, and then get blamed when they cant outperform their metrics.

Anon

Anon@9:47:

I'll take your word for it (although, unless you work at such a school, you presumably have no direct knowledge than I do of the degree of input the faculty admissions committee actually has there). But I'll concede, because even if you're right, my point still stands: even if admissions decisions are made solely by the corporate overlords there, that still means that there's some other body also bears responsibility- the Board/said corporate overloads - not merely the single person who happens to be the Dean there.

Plus, to return to the faculty: the fact that they have chosen to teach there means they still have an obligation to best prepare the students who matriculate there, even if such students are rammed down their throats by their corporate overlords. If I recall correctly, students at Texas Southern-Thurgood Marshall, for example, have had bar passage rates that consistently outperform their metrics (their median LSAT is pretty low). So even if faculty at Charlotte, as you postulate, don't have an admissions committee with any input into admissions decisions, that still doesn't mean that the blame for their low bar passage rates rest solely with the dean.

The longer I have been a faculty member, the more tiresome the reflexive "all credit is due to the dean/it's all the dean's fault" reasoning becomes. Everyone in an educational institution has responsibility for the students' and institution's success (or failure).

Anon

Oh, and anon@9:47, I forgot to add:

Accepting your argument as true, it proves too much. If students with troubling predictors are being rammed down the faculty's throat by their corporate overlords, they are also similarly being rammed down the Dean's throat: under your postulate, the dean would have no more unilateral control over who the school admits than the faculty does. What's that you say? If the dean doesn't like it, s/he could just resign? So could faculty members.

David Frakt

anon - You are right that there is a substantial amount of blame to be shared by many people associated with InfiLaw and Charlotte Law School, not just Dean Conison. But I think it is fair to single out/ call out Dean Conison for several reasons. First, as noted by Leo, Dean Conison is someone who is "highly respected" in the legal education field, or at least has held a number of influential positions within the ABA, including Chair of the Accreditation Committee, and Reporter for the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education. More recently, he has been Vice President of the North Carolina Bar. Dean Conison presents himself as, and is perceived by many to be, an authority on the legal profession and legal education, and he has repeatedly suggested that he, or Charlotte, or InfiLaw have some special insights or methodologies to turn high-risk students into high-performing students. In essence, Dean Conison is the propagandist in chief for Charlotte Law. As Dean, he has significant responsibility for admissions policies and must be held accountable for the school's bar results. The truth is that Dean Conison is making an enormous amount of money by selling a bill of goods to very low performing college graduates who are eager to believe his fairy tale that their grades and test scores really are not indicative of the great aptitude for the study of law that they really have. The faculty is not really to blame, except to the extent that they go along with InfiLaw's admissions policies in order to remain employed. I know that some of them have attempted to raise objections to admitting so many poorly qualified students, but their protests have not had any noticeable impact. I don't believe there is anything wrong with the legal education provided by Charlotte Law. The faculty are well-qualfied and I think they are doing the best they can with what they have been given. I don't think the bar pass rate for this group of students would likely be much higher at a more prestigious school. In fact, Charlotte's results are very much in line with other law schools with similar admission standards. And that is precisely the point. These results are entirely predictable. Charlotte's students do not, as a group, outperform their predictors. This means that any reasonably experienced administrator, as Dean Conison assuredly is, would have understood, at the time he was admitting these students, that the majority were destined to fail. (Keep in mind that many Charlotte students were lost to attrition before they had the chance to take the bar exam.) I, for one, consider that to be unethical, as well as a clear and blatant violation of ABA Standards.

anon

WHile I don't disagree much with any of the points for and against Dean accountability, an underexamined issue is the student body that performs BELOW expectations based on predictors.

If a law school in recent times was put on probation for low bar pass rates, temporarily improved, but then slipped down into really abysmal territory once again, all the while admitting students with predictors similar to law schools doing much better, what should an objective observer conclude?

Shouldn't the ABA act more quickly and more decisively in such an instance?

Does anyone know or care to know if there is such a law school, or law schools still holding ABA accreditation?

Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King

This joint is owned by the Sterling Partners private equity group out of Chicago. Their website speaks to "Inspired Growth." I would venture that means PROFITS, MONEY, CASH, United States Currency, USD. The duty is to the shareholders aka PARTNERS, not to the Legal Profession, the Law or any student.

Anon

David,

Thanks for your response. To be clear, I have no reason to doubt the quality of Charlotte's faculty. I would point out, however, that the relevant ABA standards (and ethics) apply to the *school* (faculty and administration, and, at schools that are part of a university, to the university as well).

twbb

Last year he simply blamed the students for being lazy:

http://abovethelaw.com/2015/09/law-school-dean-blames-lazy-students-for-terrible-bar-passage-rate/

And that was for a bar passage rate that was higher than this year's. But you are right, comparing February passage rate to July is, even by for-profit law school dean standards, pretty shady.

Derek Tokaz

David,

I think you might be missing the forest for the trees here. There's a growing trend across academia to get away from standardized admissions tests. The "test optional" trend has been gaining a lot of ground at the undergraduate level. You no longer need an SAT or ACT score to get into Wake Forest, Wesleyan, George Washington, and a whole host of other schools. The ABA cracking heads at one school might be a start, but the movement is pretty huge and unless there's push back at the undergrad level, you can expect the more law schools to get away with very open admissions policies.

anon

Derek

Perhaps so. But the bar remains. Until State Bar Associations agree to dumb down the bar, ABA enforcement is not optional, though the ABA has been so negligent (captured, corrupt) in this regard that the feds are finally stepping in.

twbb

I think my post was caught in the TFL filter because I included a link, but I will note (without linking this time) that last year Conison blamed the low passage rate (which was still higher than this latest one!) on his students being lazy. Googling for "charlotte lazy students" should get it as the first hit.

Comparing the July 2016 passage rate with the February 2016 passage rate, rather than the July 2015 passage rate, does seem somewhat shady even by for-profit, private equity firm-owned standards....

David Frakt

twbb - I fished out your post with the link from the spam folder

anon - right now it is impossible to know if a school's students are underperforming because the ABA does not require schools to publish graduation rates or bar passage statistics by LSAT score or undergraduate grades. So students have no real way of knowing which schools do a better job of educating similarly situated students and the public is also left in the dark.

Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King

I know this may sound deplorable, what is wrong with mediocrity? Uneducated lawyers need love too? We should love'em, love'em. I love'em.

Former InfiLaw Prof

I am a former full time professor at an InfiLaw school. Just a couple of points. First, the faculty have very little say in admissions. It is essentially the third rail - as David experienced. Other than consistently, repeatedly, and frequently expressing grave concerns with admissions decisions ... the faculty had no say. Second, my now former colleagues were - almost without fail - very good, hardworking, and extremely dedicated teachers. We worked (and they continue to work) our asses off and would do everything within our power to help our students understand the material and be able express that understanding orally and in writing. We were certainly not getting rich and uniformly wish there was more we could do to help our students.

anon

FIP

With all due respect, we could have written this script for you.

"We worked (and they continue to work) our asses off and would do everything within our power to help our students understand the material and be able express that understanding orally and in writing."

Any law prof who is being honest, and has worked in, for example, a law firm, would find these statement truly risible. And, worse, this sort of posturing does nothing to convince anyone that law profs at substandard, bottom rung law schools "work their asses off."

Sorry. YOu aren't speaking to an audience that doesn't know the truth, ok?

Former InfiLaw Prof

anon@11:04 ... believe what you want.

I practiced in a BigLaw firm - successfully - for many years. I left because my passion was for teaching. I honestly worked as hard teaching (and writing) as I did in practice - it was just different (and more flexible) teaching. The majority of my former colleagues were the same. They practiced, successfully and found teaching as a calling later in their careers. Many of us took jobs at InfiLaw schools because even middle rung law schools seem to find significant law practice experience to be a negative rather than a positive. Did we aspire to have the InfiLaw school be a stepping stone professionally ... sure. Some managed to find those opportunities, others did not.

It has always mystified me that the scamblog crowd failed to see the inconsistency in railing simultaneously against (1) the lack of professors with actual legal practice experience (and thus the ability to offer a more real world legal education) in "real" law schools; and (2) "substandard, bottom rung law schools," which are usually chock full of faculty with significant practice experience who are also good teachers.

Now, I honestly don't care if you believe me or not. I know the truth - about myself and about my former colleagues. The vast majority of the faculties at the InfiLaw schools work their asses off for their students. Period. And it eventually broke my spirit (and the spirits of many others). Thus, I am a former prof. And back in practice (where I miss the flexibility, but work just as hard).

twbb

"It has always mystified me that the scamblog crowd failed to see the inconsistency in railing simultaneously against (1) the lack of professors with actual legal practice experience (and thus the ability to offer a more real world legal education) in "real" law schools; and (2) "substandard, bottom rung law schools," which are usually chock full of faculty with significant practice experience who are also good teachers."

I really don't see the inconsistency here. There is nothing inconsistent with stating "All law schools should do X, and substandard law schools should stop doing Y," where X and Y are completely different actions that do not preclude each other in any way. Furthermore, the "scamblog crowd," to my knowledge, has never criticized substandard law schools for hiring faculty with significant practice experience.

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