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November 22, 2014


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Unfortunately, the bar examiners will never be able to hold the line, given public pressure and the completely shameless and shameful nature of the law school ethos.

The bar requirement will bend, slip and ultimately become irrelevant, just as law school admission "standards" have become irrelevant at a truly shocking number of law schools.

Meanwhile, an underserved public will be treated to an ever growing cadre of attorneys who scored in their academic careers consistently in the bottom quartile, in a system where the self interested, self satisfied and oblivious, who care not at all about the practice of law or the legal system as it is experienced by the majority in this country, will peer from behind the gates of their lovely ivory towers, look down at what they have wrought and say: "It doesn't exist."


Is there a list of which bar exams had Examsoft issues and which didn't have issues or don't use the software?



who cares about the law schools? To date, the practicing bar has shrugged its shoulders at the fools in the academy. Now, you have legions of ill prepared, debt saddled newbies. The real lawyers are starting to take notice and will not allow the law schools to continue to gut the profession.



How I hope you are right.

I would agree with this: it seems to me that we are starting to see something akin to corruption in the law academy (i.e., the general failure to respond in any way but juvenile and defensive attacks upon anyone who renders an objective and deep critique can be no longer attributable solely to naivety and hubris). In light of this, perhaps nothing but the law - as understood by lawyers - will be able to rout it out.

The key is to recognize that the smug and deliberate indifference of those on top of the pecking order is as much to blame as the avarice and venality of the profiteers at the bottom of it.

Just saying...

Why are so many marginally qualified people going to law school? Because the price is right. I recently spent some time at a third tier school that was discounting tuition 60%, making the decision to go less dangerous for many on the margins.

Doubt many of these people think about passing the bar three years later. Many are the first in their families to go to law school and they are shockingly ignorant of what is in store for them in law school and beyond.

At some point personal responsibility has to be factored into this to a greater percentage than it has been to date. A number of the students I met had dreams of practicing "international law" because the school had advertised itself as having a specialty in that field. No sense of reality....

Just the fact that a law school is offering such steep discounts off advertised tuition should be a red flag. After all, if you went to buy a house and the seller offered you a 60% discount on the list price, wouldn't you wonder if the house was sitting on a toxic waste site???

As far as practitioners are concerned, I do not think that most think of the future of the profession as a whole. Most are scrambling for business and just focused on keeping their firm in business. I am sure most would give any young person the advice: do not go to law school, but for many recent grads, there are not many other opportunities out there right now.


"Doubt many of these people think about passing the bar three years later. Many are the first in their families to go to law school and they are shockingly ignorant of what is in store for them in law school and beyond."

This is such a huge part of the equation. Lower SES families are very naïve about higher education. They think just getting into any law school - even Florida Coastal - is a ticket into a lucrative and respectable career. Part of it is lack of information, part of it is that they just so badly want to hope that a better future is within reach.

Meanwhile, in a family of two parents with Ivy League professional degrees (say, Business and Law), going to George Washington Law would be considered a huge risk and the poor son or daughter that enrolled there would have to field nonstop questions about debt and job opportunities during the holidays.


Wow. Let's add sad stereotypes and class bigotry to the corruption of the spirit of the law academy.

Yes, it is true: interviews with children in economically depressed areas often reveal statement of intention to become doctors and astronauts, etc.

Some people hear those young voices and think "Let's make law schools the incubator of reforms in the legal system that might make better the legal systems that serve, and thus the society as a whole." Some say: "Wow, they are stupid to think they could ever be me."

Add the hypocrisy of faculty appointments committees, who search for "diversity" among the privileged elite who led the same pampered, sheltered lives that they did, and disdain everyone else.


"As far as practitioners are concerned, I do not think that most think of the future of the profession as a whole. Most are scrambling for business and just focused on keeping their firm in business."

Just saying, you obviously are hopelessly uninformed.


You are ignoring the fact that the government's income based payment programs have effectively made law school risk free and a very attractive option for the least qualified potential students.

Consider the student who graduates with mediocre grades in a major that confers no job skills (humanities or social sciences). He ends up working at starbucks and living in his parents' basement.

For him law school is a great opportunity. He doesn't pay tuition, the government does by giving him student loans. Not only that the government gives him money to live on which may be even more than he was making at starbucks, and allows him to move out of his parents' place. He can tell his people he is in law school which is much more respectable than working at starbucks. He can also live in a cool city. There are law schools in great places like New York, Washington DC, San Francisco etc. These are places this grad could never afford to live without going to law school

Now let's say he ends up back at starbucks after graduation. Is he worse off for going to law school? I'd say he is not. His income will be so low his loan payments will be minimal under the income based repayment programs. I know scam bloggers love to talk about how these programs may not last because costs are out of control. People said the same thing about medicare in the 60s. Its still going strong. Not only that, no one, not democrats, not republicans, are trying to dismantle these programs.

So, after 3 years of law school, even the worst off grad is back where he was before law school. He's working at starbucks and has some tiny loan payments. Remember its 10% of income OVER the poverty line so it will be much less than 10% for this grad.

Not only that, this grad got a 3 year vacation from his low status existence living with parents and working at starbucks. I'd say he's better off.

Off course the law school takes a cut for making this all possible. But that doesn't hurt the student.

Bottom line, nothing is going to change.



First, you need to review the FPL.

Second, you sound elitist and greedy and callous. (I'm quite sure that, with such an elitist, greedy and callous attitude, you don't care if someone points out that you sound elitist and greedy and callous.)

Third, you also sound like a "scamblogger" when you say "Off course the law school takes a cut for making this all possible" - so add hypocrisy to your positive qualities (from the point of view of a law prof, your comment is wonderful!!!)

Of course, you add, "But that doesn't hurt the student." See, point two.

Just saying...

anon @ 2:49: If practitioners are so concerned about the state of the profession as a whole:

1. Why are they not demanding that their ABA do something about its Section of Legal Education's standards and accreditation process that make it virtually impossible for a law school to permanently lose accreditation and which is overrun with committees and site teams composed of representatives of non-elite schools?

2. Why are those involved in local and state bar associations lobbying for more stringent bar exams -- exams that do not result in 70, 90 90% pass rates on the first try?

3. Why are these practitioners not demanding that their law schools not weaken admission standards to prop up enrollment and threaten to cut off $$ and alumni support if they do?

Can you, anon, describe some of the action taken by practitioners who are so worried about the state of the profession, as opposed to their own income?


Posted by: anon | November 22, 2014 at 06:57 PM & Posted by: anon | November 22, 2014 at 11:33 PM,

We really see things differently. I believe the problem began with legal practitioners who sought to increase their profits, while decreasing their overheads. To do so, they ceased training junion associates and dumped the responsibility on law schools. For centuries that was the tradition that most practitioners now shirk. This is of course completely different than medicine, where physicians understand four years of medical education isn't enough and provide training through residencies. But lawyers writing on this blog seem to think that law schools should provide six years of education (3 yrs classroom, 3 yrs apprenticeship) in three years, and then have tha audacity to get angry when that unrealistic expectation isn't met.

Law schools responded to this new "we're-not-gonna-train-ya-you-inadequate-law-school-graduate" practitioner culture by creating clinics, keeping the same 3 yr long structure, while reducing first year courses from two to one semester. In turn, student understanding of 1st yr courses was negatively impacted by a laziness of the professional bar.

Then there's the issue of salary. We have lawyers who expect salaries of physicians. To them even $60K or $80K is too low. So, how to change? They regularly push for less law school graduates by speaking out against law schools. After all the less of them that go to law school, the more jobs for those who are already members of the ba; and thereby competition is decreased.

Meanwhile, we have a pompus older group of lawyers who believe the younger generation isn't as good as they. This partly comes from natural human hubris and partly from the desire to degrade younger colleagues with an air of self-important pomposity about how much better law school was when they were students.

Add to this people who have not a clue of anything intelligent to say about academics, don't really understand what they do, lack the basic curiousity to appreciate deep thinking, clearly don't read any journals, lack inquisitiveness about cutting-edge thinking, and you get disgruntled attorneys, anti-intellectuals, and self-righteous blow-hards who write in the comment section of legal blogs.

Love ya,

Professor T. Roll

Excellent trolling AnonProf. Comment gave me a good chuckle, hope other posters realize it's satire/cynicism and don't hijack the thread.

Michael C. Duff

As someone who came to academia from the working class I'd like to point out that an odd assumption permeating many of these discussions is that there is something else these students with low predictors could be doing. The truth of the matter is that virtually all professions that have been open to the working/middle classes over the last few decades have been collapsing. (Read about the fortunes of MBAs lately?; doctors are becoming "hospitalists" & etc). So if you are "on the corner" here is the decision you face. You can roll the dice or abandon hope. (Just get a job? You'll be working part time for a temp agency earning $10 per hour if you are lucky). If someone will give you money to make your dice-rolling feel less risky in the short term you might just take it because you are ill-equipped to deal with a no-hope alternative. As Krugman has suggested, you might be better off learning about collective bargaining. But when you are 22-23-24 it is just too hard to take that long and depressing (if pragmatic) view. And the truth of the matter is that no one knows what the situation will be with respect to any of the traditional professions ten years from now. Maybe all professional schools should close.


Yes, I was believing AnonProf was serious (though clearly mistaken in nearly every respect) until I realized it is just an attempt to change the subject, which is the falling scores on the multi state and state bar examinations.

Just saying: again, you obviously are hopelessly uninformed. Start reading the reports coming out of the state bar associations and the remedies for which they call.

And, remember, the bar is not responsible for law schools. In fact, if you read the comments above, you will see that some call for the bar to become more active in policing the sorry state of legal academia more directly and vigorously.

The miserable decline of interest in legal academia in the practice of law is an issue that deserves more attention. If legal academia believes that that profession needs improvement and reform - and it does - then members of legal academia should be looking in the mirror and asking themselves how engaged they are with practice; asking themselves whether they show respect or disdain for the practice of law and its practitioners.

At minimum, law schools should maintain valid admission standards (so sayeth the ABA, do you really disagree?) and feel some sense of responsibility if bar admission cannot be achieved by a significant number of law school graduates, who have paid dearly for a legal "education."

As some of these comments demonstrate, law schools have set themselves up as adversaries to their students and to their graduates. No wonder, then, there is a crisis in enrollment. Who wants to attend law schools taught by persons who don't seem to show much interest in how their students will fare in practice and despise lawyers in any event?

To appreciate the qualities that law profs see in themselves, and the way many (if not most) see practitioners of the profession they supposedly are preparing students to enter, we can take something from AnonProf, even if it is trolling.

Here it is, the credo of the law professor when challenged by those the prof believes to be practitioners of law, in all its glory:

"[You] people ... have not a clue of anything intelligent to say about academics, [you] don't really understand what they do, [you] lack the basic curiousity to appreciate deep thinking, [you] clearly don't read any journals, [you] lack inquisitiveness about cutting-edge thinking, and you [are just a bunch of] disgruntled attorneys, anti-intellectuals, and self-righteous blow-hards who write in the comment section of legal blogs."

There you go. Now, that's entertainment! Funny, but sad too.

Just saying...

"Just saying: again, you obviously are hopelessly uninformed. Start reading the reports coming out of the state bar associations and the remedies for which they call."

Cite some, anon. Like so many profs here, you love to insult the intelligence of others with generalities. If you are so informed you should be able to rattle off a list of these bar associations and the remedies they call for.

"The miserable decline of interest in legal academia in the practice of law is an issue that deserves more attention."

How does this support your contention that practitioners are so concerned and engage in what is going on in the profession? Legal academia is at the heart of the problem. If practitioners have no interest in what is going on there, then I am correct and they are not engage in the issue.

If I am so miserably uniformed, educate me with specifics.

Former Editor

I'm actually willing to bite, a little, AnonProf. Perhaps you are right that many outside the academy do not understand what it is that academics do. I think most practitioners believe the job of a law professor is to (1) teach law students the law as actually in force and as practiced, and (2) write doctrinal type scholarship that will be helpful to courts and practitioners. Faculty might do other stuff too, but those two are the defining duties of the job.

So, if those two things are not what academics primarily do (or should be doing), can you explain what it is that they do (or should be doing)? Break it down Sesame Street style, please, for those of us who lack the requisite curiosity and intelligence to comprehend a more nuanced explanation (i.e. please avoid content-free buzz words like "cutting-edge" and words that would require the average college graduate to find a dictionary).

* * *

To come back to the original topic, I don't find the overall MBE score decline or the increased fail rates surprising, particularly in states like NY and Cal. which have difficult bar exams and numerous law schools. 2011 was the first year of the applicant decline and, while the drop that year may not have been severe enough to force schools to adjust admissions practices visibly (i.e. at or above the reported 25% LSAT and UGPA marks), it seems highly unlikely that there was no effect on the quality of admitted classes below the 25% mark. We don't know for sure, since the schools don't publish that information, but the results seem to point strongly in that direction. We will know more about it in the next few years, I suspect, when the really deep application declines hit and schools couldn't hide the ball on admissions. For the sake of all of the students who fail, I hope that I'm wrong about there being a continued decline for the next several years, but I don't think I am.


I know that any statistic (of any sort) is a sign that law schools are scams but I am not entirely sure why the lower bar passage rates aren't a sign that the system is working. Is there a reason why we would not want individuals who apply to law school with full knowledge of what they are getting into to do so, and if they fail the bar and are excluded from practicing, isn't that how things are supposed to work? I understand that there are federal subsidies implicit in all this but that would make Congress the scam artists not the law schools, just confused at the responses to the report of lower bar passage rates. It would be a problem, I would think, if bar passage rates went up with what appears to be a less qualified group of applicants than traditionally takes the bar. Going down kind of makes sense.


Wisconsin's State Bar's report comes to mind, though it is somewhat dated, there have been many since:

"Three issues seem to characterize common concerns in professional education: (1) the need to understand new
demands on the profession along with changes in the context in which professional services are rendered; (2) the need to integrate new knowledge and procedures in curricula and to better implement them into actual practice; and (3) the need to engender continuous self-critique, defined as a process of self-assessment that enables professionals to better respond to evolving demands for competence and accountability."

The present law academy has failed miserably in each and everyone of these aspects, especially the last.

(Not posting the link, as that causes comment to get hung in the filter, but a simple Google search will reveal this and many other similar reports by the state bar associations on necessary improvements in legal education, including continuing legal education once in practice.)


Thanks to FE for trying to get us back on topic. Before I discuss that topic, let me make it clear that I do think dropping incoming qualifications are going to tank future MBE scores and bar pass numbers. But also note that I used the future tense there.

There's no evidence (other than lower MBE scores) that this year's graduates were of lower quality than previous years. Some schools saw a decline in admissions numbers in 2011 but some did not see a decline until 2012. That would be the first year data would lead one to expect to see an impact like this (i.e. July 2015). I don't think the LSAT numbers show this level of drop in quality, though the lack of published distributions beyond the few data points required make it hard to say with precision. Even if a drop in entrance qualifications were hidden in the 2011 data reporting, there's not enough space to hide this level of change.

Additionally, data from test takers who were not part of that class indicate the exam was harder, or at least scored more harshly. Look at scores of people retaking the exam. They entered law school before the downturn. You would expect their rates to stay the same (low since they are retaking the exam). In the states I've looked at, their rates dropped even lower than previous years of those retaking the exam. You would not expect that unless the exam was harder.

You would also want to look at people taking the state bars who were previously admitted in other states, where such involves taking the MBE. Those people were not part of the class that entered in 2011. In the states from which I've seen that data, their pass rates dropped as well. Again, it indicates that it was the test. In both cases, the amount of the drop was similar in magnitude to the drop in first time passers.

Now, I have not done anything resembling a big study of these types of data points nationwide. Just don't have the time. I'm only saying the data I have seen says it was the test.

This would probably not be the first time the MBE scoring has been screwed up. There's decent data that the MBE scoring erred in the other direction with the July 2008 exam, where MBE and bar pass rates jumped all over the country.

That being said, YES, the declines in student entrance qualifications ARE going to result in lower bar pass rates, probably much lower. I think we will see that effect hit next summer, though it may end up being masked by this year's artificially lower numbers. And then we will see it progressively more each following year until something changes with the market (more qualified students start coming back, fewer less qualified students begin because schools close or schools tighten up, etc.).

The data just don't show it as being the reason for this year's drop.

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