Last week, Charlotte School of Law had a pretty good week. Dean Jay Conison was fired and returned to the faculty, but since he wasn't assigned any classes this semester, he has no actual responsibilities. He reportedly was wandering the halls asking other faculty members if they had anything for him to do. Dean Conison was replaced by faculty member Scott Broyles. Dean Broyles announced that students who had received federal loans for the 2016-2017 school year would have their spring loans disbursed to them. And the ABA announced that it was not going to evaluate Charlotte's teach-out plan since the school had not determined that it was actually planning to close.
But this week brings more bad news. Charlotte was just informed by the North Carolina Board of Bar Examiners of the results on the February 2017 bar, and they were not pretty. Charlotte's first-time pass rate was an abysmal 25%. (18 of 72) For those counting on repeat takers to bring Charlotte's pathetic bar pass rates within striking distance of the ABA Standard, the February results don't look very promising. Charlotte's pass rate for repeat takers was a mere 18.1%. (17 of 94) The overall rates in NC for February, significantly lowered by Charlotte's performance, were 44.4% for first time takers and 31.7% for repeaters. Not including Charlotte, the state wide rate was 52.6% for first-timers (90/171) and 36.3% for repeaters (102/281). In other words, Charlotte dragged down the state wide passage rates 8.2% and 4.7% , respectively, but still managed to be more than 15% below the state average, as they have now been for the last four administrations of the exam (the two before that they were only 14% below the state average).
Last month it was reported that Charlotte was essentially paying its students to defer taking the July bar. In fact, in an audio recording leaked to the local public radio station, the Assistant Dean for Academic Success Odessa All could be heard explaining to other faculty members that if the school hadn't paid students to not take a previous bar exam, the school's bar pass rate on that exam would have been in the 20s. Apparently, she knew what she was talking about.
Although the July bar pass rate is typically much higher than the February bar pass rate, there is little reason to be optimistic about Charlotte's prospects for the July 2017 bar. The current class, enrolled in 2013 and 2014, is among the weakest classes in American law school history by entrance credentials, and has been further weakened by academic transfers from the top of the class. With the exodus of many of Charlotte's top students this semester after the double whammy of being placed on probation and losing federal funds in the fall, it is hard to envision how Charlotte's remaining students will pass at much more than a 30% rate, if that. And Charlotte has also lost, or will likely lose this summer, its strongest 1Ls and 2Ls, making it unlikely that it will every get near a 75% ultimate bar pass rate for the foreseeable future. Charlotte's only hope seems to be converting to non-profit status and affiliating with a University. Reportedly they are in talks with an an unnamed university in the Northeast. I'm not sure why any self-respecting university would want to affiliate with a law school with Charlotte's reputation, but perhaps Sterling Partners has made them an offer they can't refuse, as discussed in this recent ABA Journal article.
Full Disclosure - Regular readers will recall that I was representing a faculty member in a wrongful termination dispute with Charlotte School of Law. I am pleased to report that that dispute was settled amicably. However, I have been contacted by another faculty member about representation of a similar nature and will likely be taking on that individual as a client.
UPDATED: See the second paragraph for additional stats on the Feb NC Bar exam