As I have reviewed the ABA Bar Passage Data spreadsheet, I've noticed some oddities that I thought worthy of sharing with TFL readers.
What the heck is going on at Southern University Law Center?
For some time, I have been calling on the ABA to sanction Southern University Law Center for violating ABA Standard 316 on Admissions (see, e.g. here). Southern has had appallingly low admissions standards for several years, as low, and in several cases lower, than the 11 schools that have already been found in violation of this rule, as shown below:
Southern ULC 75/50/25 percentiles LSAT and UGPA 2014-2017
2014 LSAT 147/144/142 GPA 3.20/2.82/2.52
2015 LSAT 147/143/141 GPA 220.127.116.11/2.53
2016 LSAT 146/143/141 GPA 3.16/2.86/2.52
2017 LSAT 146/144/141 GPA 3.17/2.91/2.58
Despite these horrific numbers, so far there has not been a public peep from the ABA (it may well be coming soon). At first, I thought the ABA might be reluctant to sanction Southern because it is an HBCU, but after the ABA has found both Texas Southern and North Carolina Central in violation of Standard 316, that theory was proven false. My other theory was that, despite their low admissions standards, Southern's bar pass rate wasn't all that terrible, at least compared to some other schools that have been sanctioned, so perhaps the ABA was cutting them a break for that reason. Southern's reported bar pass rate in 2014 was 55.75%; in 2015, it was 53.19%. In 2016, when the ABA started getting serious about exploitative admissions, Southern had a 61.59% first-time pass rate, followed by a 57.81% rate in 2017. No other school has managed such high pass rates with similar students. The spreadsheet reveals that something very strange is happening at Southern that may explain why their bar pass rate is higher than would be expected with classes made up entirely of high, very high, and extremely high risk students.
The Ultimate Bar Passage 2015 spreadsheet has two columns of information (Column H and I for those scoring at home) called "2015 Graduates who did not take the bar" (a raw number) and "% not taken". The national average for the percentage of each graduating class that did not take the bar was 2.80%, proving that most law students go to law school to become lawyers. But for the class of 2015, Southern had 72 non-bar takers, 33.64% of the graduating class, 12 times the national average! No other school even came close. North Dakota was next with 18.84% of the 2015 graduating class not taking the bar, but that was just 13 students. I know what you are thinking. There must be some mistake. Or perhaps this was a one time aberration, an explainable isolated event. I'm afraid not. In 2016, out of 174 graduates, 83 of them (47.7%) did not take the bar, while 47 graduates from prior years took a bar exam for the first time. Again in 2017, 74 out of 155 (47.7%) graduates did not take the bar, and again, 47 prior year grads took the bar for the first time. People go to law school because they want to become lawyers, yet it seems that a fairly high percentage of Southern University graduates never take the bar at all, far more than at any other law school. So what is going on at Southern? Is the law school actively discouraging likely bar failers from taking the bar, ever? Or perhaps they are encouraging them to wait a few months or a year to be better prepared? Why are so many people spending three to four years to earn a J.D. and never taking the bar? The ABA should demand answers from Southern regarding this phenomenon. In the meantime, if you know what is going on at Southern, or have some ideas, please share your thoughts in the comments.
Southern is not the only law school that seems to be discouraging its graduates from taking the bar. At least since 2015, Arizona Summit has engaged in this practice, even offering cash bribes to likely bar failer graduates to defer taking the bar in a desperate and doomed effort to artificially prop up their bar passage rate.
The Spreadsheet suggests that several other schools may be engaged in similar efforts. Here are the likely culprits based on the information in the various spreadsheets:
Arizona Summit: Arizona Summit had 188 graduates in 2016. Just over two thirds of them (126) did not take the bar. But in 2016, Arizona Summit had 150 first time takers who graduated in prior years. The delay did not seem to help. Arizona Summit's 2016 bar passage rate: 34.44%. In 2017, Arizona Summit had 103 graduates and 74 of them did not take the bar, while 118 from prior years did. Result: 26.53%. Yet another reason to shut down this embarrassment of a law school.
Florida Coastal: It seems that Arizona Summit was not the only InfiLaw school running this scam. Florida Coastal seems to have also been in on it, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. In 2016, out of 291 graduates, 79 did not take the bar, while there were 93 first time takers from prior graduating years. In 2017, out of 228 graduates, 59 did not take the bar, while 79 from prior years did.
Elon: Elon had 191 graduates in 2017. 122 of them didn't take the bar (63.8%). Why? Elon still bombed the bar with a 51.22% first-time pass rate.
Other schools with suspiciously high percentages of students not taking the bar in the year that they graduate:
South Texas College of Law - Houston
Thomas Jefferson. Shocking.
WMU Cooley. Surprise. Surprise.
Of course, there may be legitimate reasons why a few graduates might not immediately take the bar (e.g. planned childbirth), and law schools owe it to their students to be honest with them about their preparedness and prospects for bar passage, and to provide extra support to those who need it. On the other hand, if a law school is so certain that a graduating student is going to fail the bar, why did they let that student make it all the way to graduation instead of flunking them out when they realized they didn't have what it takes? Are law schools retaining students and taking their tuition when they should be attriting them? The ABA should require all law schools with abnormally high numbers of students deferring taking the bar to offer an explanation.
UPDATE: So, I have a possible theory about students not taking the bar in the year that they graduate. Perhaps some of these students are graduating in December and then taking the February bar. If so, the ABA may count them as graduates of one calendar year and first-time bar takers from a prior year. Perhaps someone from the ABA or one of these schools could confirm if that is what is going on. But this explanation surely doesn't account for all of those who seem to be deferring taking the bar, nor would it explain why large numbers of students aren't taking the bar at all.
Are You Tracking?
Law Schools are supposed to keep track of all of their graduates, and most are doing a pretty good job of it. But not all. Here are a few of the worst:
WMU Cooley. Among its many other faults, Cooley also seems to have trouble keeping track of its graduates. Claimed it had "no information" on 61 graduates in 2016 and 144 graduates out of 352 in 2017. Seriously. This was the most in the country in 2017. Most schools had "0" in this column.
George Washington University: GW seems to be having some trouble with record keeping. The school reported "no information" on 133 out of 618 grads in 2017, (second to WMU Cooley) and 113 out of 555 grads in 2016 (Most in the country). Maybe this is what happens when you poach a bunch of transfer students from other schools? You don't know where they all came from. (In 2016, GW had 67 students transfer in, including 30 from American. In 2015, they had 106 transfers in, including 51 from American.) I know, GWU, some of these are probably international students that are harder to track. But somehow I bet you'll be able to find them when the annual fundraising drive starts up.
Atlanta's John Marshall: No info on 61 out of 168 students in 2017. Really?
Detroit Mercy: No info on 57 out of 157 students in 2017. No info on 48 out of 143 in 2016. UPDATE: See explanation from DM's Dean Phyllis Crocker in the comments. DM has a legitimate reason for this apparent anomaly - a dual US/Canadian JD program.
Hey ABA - I doubt there is anything nefarious going on at GWU, but you should definitely give them a wrist slap over this. And you might want to check out what is going on at these other schools. Something is fishy.
As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments.