The 2016 ABA 509 reports are out and there are some interesting things to report:
Let's Start with the "Hall of Shame" headed up, not surprisingly, by InfiLaw's three law schools:
1. Charlatan Law, I mean Charlotte Law, just placed on probation by the ABA, still doesn’t get it. Their 2016 entering class profile is 148/144/141 3.07/2.80/2.48. This is after their bar pass rate has come down from 62% in 2013 to 58% in 2014, to 46% in 2015 to somewhere in the low 40s for 2016 (in North Carolina, they had a 34.7% rate in February and a 45.2% rate in July). Yet the school still admitted 1416 students and matriculated 343 students, an even larger class than last year’s entering class of 309, when what they should have done is cut the class size in half and tried to get to 151/149/147 3.2/3.0/2.8 to get back to some semblance of respectability. Clearly, Dean Conartiston decided to milk maximum profits out of the school for one more year.
2. Florida Costly, that is, Florida Coastal: The September 19, 2016 letter by Florida Coastal Dean DeVito’s, which I wrote about previously, turns out to have been very misleading. The letter stated, “We have raised our incoming LSAT requirements by five points and plan to raise it two more in the subsequent admission cycle.” This suggested to me that Florida Coastal had already raised standards for the class that just started in the fall of 2016. But in fact, they did no such thing. In fact, they admitted a class almost identical to their sister school, Charlotte Law, with LSATs of 149/144/141 and UGPA of 3.27/2.87/2.57. This class is also virtually identical to the class they admitted last year, at 148/144/141 3.29/2.88/2.54. Meanwhile, having completely destroyed their reputation, the number of applications and the class size at FCSL continue to plummet. Consider that in 2011, Florida Coastal had 5277 applications and matriculated 679 students. This year, they had 1813 applications and enrollment is down to 235, almost 2/3 less on both counts.
3. Arizona Plummet, er Summit somehow managed to convince 143 students to matriculate this fall, despite their incredibly dismal record of performance on the bar and in job placement. The class they admitted is virtually identical to last year’s class in terms of credentials. Both the 2015 and 2016 entering classes are at 148/143/140 with virtually identical grades as well – 3.34/2.88/2.54 last year and 3.31/2.96/2.54 this year. Arizona Summit’s bar pass rate has gone from a respectable 72% in 2012, to 69% in 2013 to 52% (more than 21 points below the state average) in 2014, to 42% in 2015 (more than 24 points below the state average) to somewhere around 30% in 2016 (38.1 on the Arizona bar in February and 24.6% in July). Arizona Summit is likely to be more than 30% below the state average for 2016. So Arizona Summit is clearly out of compliance with ABA Standard 316 having been more than 15% below the state average 3 years in a row. And they are clearly in violation of ABA Standard 501, for admitting students who do not appear capable of completing a J.D. and passing the bar. In fact, the classes of 2015 and 2016 are even weaker than the class of 2013 that just bombed the bar in historic fashion. The ABA must act immediately to stop this egregious exploitation.
(Note - Interestingly, Charleston Law School, which shrank to 85 incoming students last year when InfiLaw was trying to buy it, rebounded this year to matriculate 215, students, but they had to dip way down in the LSAT pool to do it, a huge mistake in my opinion. LSAT profile 149/145/141.)
4. Thomas Cooley has continued its exploitative admission practices, admitting 86% of its applicants and enrolling a huge class of 415 students, slightly down from last year’s class of 448, but with identical LSATs, a horrifying 147/141/138. Cooley’s bar pass rate has hovered in the low 50s for the last three years (it is actually lower, because Cooley reports only 70-71% of their students and omits results from states where they did even worse, like California, as the current ABA standard permits). Cooley has been 20 points or more below the state average since 2013 and was 16 points below the state average in 2012, so they are also out of compliance with ABA Standard 316. Expect the ABA to place Cooley on probation in the very near future.
5. Thomas Jefferson shrank from 247 to 232, but still had to lower its standards from 148/144/141 to 147/143/141. This is not the way to improve on the 31% first time bar pass rate on the July California bar. Thomas Jefferson has been out of compliance with ABA Standard 316 for four years in a row and must be placed on probation immediately.
6. Ave Maria, which was just sanctioned by the ABA for admitting students who couldn’t succeed, has inexplicably lowered their admission standards this year. They are down to just 88 students with a 151/147/143. I question whether they will be able to stay in business.
7. St. Thomas, another Catholic school in the Miami area also is going the wrong way, dropping their 75% percentile LSAT from 145 to 144. That is not going to help with their 45% bar pass rate on the most recent Florida bar.
8. North Carolina Central - class size dropped from 199 to 183 while LSATs dropped to 149/144/141 from 149/145/142, a decline the school could ill afford.
9. Southern is also in trouble, shrinking from 210 entering students in 2015 to 171 this year, while their 75th percentile (the top of the class) dropped to an incredibly low 146, the lowest in the country. This places virtually every single student at the school at very high risk of failure.
10. Whittier - see my last column.
11. Golden Gate - see my last column, especially the comments.
Schools in Deep Trouble
12. Appalachian – Down to just 38 students, with a dismal 147/143/140 3.1/2.8/2.6 and bar pass out of compliance in 2014 and 2015 (don’t know about 2016 yet).
13. Concordia – Provisionally accredited, and facing competition from the University of Idaho which is opening a campus in Boise next year, Concordia managed to attract a class of just 44 students, with a 151/149/145 down from 157/152/149 just two years ago. It will be difficult for them to sustain their strong initial bar pass performance with such students.
14. Faulkner Law school is down to 92 very weak students, with 149/145/142 LSATs and rapidly declining bar passage rates. (UPDATE - Faulkner's Dean says their bar pass rate was much improved in 2016. See comments.)
Bottom Tier Schools Doing the Right Thing, or at Least Trying
Valparaiso continues to try to dig out of the hole created by Dean Jay Conison before he left to destroy Charlotte Law School. They have improved their incoming class to 151/147/145 (still not good enough, but going in the right direction), but had to shrink to 103 students to get there, less than half their size five years ago.
Barry Law School raised their admission standards significantly and also shrank significantly from 278 in 2015 to 195 this fall. Their numbers went up from 150/146/144 to 151/148/146, a major step in the right direction after seeing their bar pass rate drop into the 40s this year.
Texas Southern shrank its class a tiny bit (from 236 to 227) and improved it a tiny bit from 146/143/141 to 147/145/142.
The Bottom Line
Most of these admission decisions were made last winter and spring, before the ABA announced sanctions against Ave Maria, Valparaiso and Charlotte Law and before the horrific (but entirely predictable) bar results of this summer, but it is still incredibly disappointing to see how many schools have failed to heed the lessons of the last few years, or are simply so desperate to stay in business that they are willing to exploit very low aptitude students to do it. Expect another round of sanctions, including probation, in the very near future. Arizona Summit, Thomas Cooley, Thomas Jefferson, Golden Gate and Whittier are my leading candidates.