When the ABA released its bar pass spreadsheet recently, there were a few surprises. One of the surprises was that Detroit Mercy, a respectable school, had the lowest ultimate bar pass rate in the country for the class of 2015, according to the spreadsheet. Well, it turns out that this was not accurate. Like several other schools (Northern Kentucky, St. Mary’s, Toledo and South Texas College of Law so far), Detroit Mercy initially reported the wrong data to the ABA, which resulted in some unfair negative publicity for the school, which by all rights belonged to Arizona Summit (aka Arizona Plummet). The ABA has now issued its third revised bar passage spreadsheet, and it makes a lot more sense. Arizona Summit now has taken its rightful place as the undisputed cellar dweller with the lowest Ultimate Bar Pass Rate (they are the only school below 60%) and Detroit Mercy has moved past 35 schools with a revised UBP of 80.53%. (Detroit Mercy also revised their 2016 and 2017 first-time bar passage rate to 61.5% and 73.5%, respectively.) In this third, and hopefully final, revision of the spreadsheet, there are now only 19 schools that failed to make the 75% UBP benchmark. (Although I still think the numbers may be wrong for Wyoming and Syracuse.) And the national UBP mark for all takers from all ABA schools has been adjusted to 88.32%. This sounds pretty good, until you realize that there are still nearly 4400 J.D.s from the nationwide class of 2015 who took the bar and still hadn’t passed it after two years. That is a lot of wasted time, money and effort for a whole bunch of people.
As I was investigating these matters, I had the opportunity to speak to Detroit Mercy’s dynamic and thoughtful Dean, Phyllis Crocker, and learned more about her school. A unique aspect of Detroit Mercy’s program is its one-of-a-kind cross-border partnership with the University of Windsor, through which the school offers dual U.S. and Canadian J.D. degrees in three years. This program also helped to explain an anomaly I identified in this post, where I questioned why so many Detroit Mercy graduates were not taking the bar. As it turns out, the vast majority of those not taking the bar are Canadians in the Dual JD program. These students tend to take the bar in Canada, but the ABA only requires law schools to track and report bar takers in U.S. jurisdictions. So, for example, of the 37 Detroit Mercy grads from the class of 2015 who did not take a U.S. bar in 2015, 32 were Canadians in the dual J.D. program. Of the 39 2016 Detroit Mercy grads who did not take a U.S. bar, 39 were Canadian dual J.D.s.
Although the dual J.D. program seems to primarily appeal to Canadians, it is open to Americans, and a couple of U.S. citizens have completed the program. Of course, getting your bar license in Canada takes longer than it does in the U.S. and requires more than just passing a bar exam. Here is a description of what it takes in Ontario:
Ontario (Law Society of Upper Canada)
Ontario’s Bar Admissions Course consists of online self-study in the following subjects: Real Estate, Wills and Estates, Business Law, Professional Responsibility, Family Law, Criminal Law, Civil law, and Constitutional Law. You must then pass two major licensing exams covering these subjects – both self-study and open book. One is the Barrister Examination and the other is the Solicitors Examination. Each exam takes about seven hours to complete.
After finishing this step, you must complete a 10-month Articleship. During this time, you will work for a principal (licensed lawyer) who must approve of your work. You will be assessed midterm, at which time your principal must report your progress to the Law Society of Upper Canada. You must also complete an online Professional Responsibility and Practice Course during your articling period.
Once you have completed all of these steps, you will be called to the Bar, conferred with the degree of Barrister-at-Law, and sworn in and enrolled as a Solicitor of the Court of Appeal and the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario.
According to Dean Crocker, Detroit Mercy is still accepting applications for this program for fall 18. So, if you have been thinking about either going to law school to fight Trump, or moving to Canada to get away from him, here is a program that can keep both options open! On a more serious note, having a thorough understanding of the Canadian legal system would be a real advantage for graduates seeking employment in firms that represent a lot of multi-national corporations that do business in Canada or in government agencies that deal with cross-border issues. And Detroit Mercy has lower than average tuition for a private school, while the cost of living in Detroit is well below average for a major city. If you are looking for something to do while procrastinating doing your taxes, check out what Detroit Mercy has to offer.