Search the Lounge


« Bo Rutledge Named Dean at UGA | Main | Bethany Oklahoma, Route 66, and the Grapes of Wrath »

November 13, 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.



Quite right.

I would point out a problem: perhaps you can suggest a solution.

IN some states, like California, the "normal" bar pass rate is far lower; in some states, far higher. In other words, in some states, the pass rate is usually very high across the board, but this varies quite a bit.

My sense is that the ABA standard set a deviation from the state average to account for these differences.

THe ABA "standards" are, however, toothless, for the reason you cite and others. The factors to take into account if a school falls out of compliance are so broad, vague and lax that it seems impossible that any law school will ever lose accreditation because of low bar pass rates.

Have you studied the regulations regarding student loans? I believe in these, there may be some hope in finding an enforcement mechanism. The ability to obtain the promised license (i.e., bar membership) and find a job (i.e., employment placement rates) are valid criteria. So too is the percent of revenue derived from loans.

confused by your post


For obvious reasons I think many who come to this site will feel great hostility toward your post. What you have written is important and deserves a wide audience. I have to credit those who run this site for allowing you to post this. It is useful to have hard numbers support what everyone intuitively knows.

Lowered student LSAT scores = lower bar passage rate 3 years later

"Opportunity" schools try and mitigate the low pass rate problem by intentionally causing massive student attrition and creating obstacles to transferring. This has helped these schools A LOT. As you point out, so has the fact that LSAT scores of law students in general are on the decline causing a corresponding general decline in bar passage rates.

The problem you describe is a huge one for legal education. The ABA won't fix it, state bars won't fix it, student loan regulators won't fix it, those employed by law schools won't fix it.

In the end the ONLY thing which will stop the worst of the schools from continuing to enroll large numbers of obviously unqualified students will be a lack of students willing to attend. This is already starting to happen on the margins. This small change has been brought about by the push to make a lot more information available (costs, outcomes, etc.). Information just like this.

Keep writing David and keep trying to have these discussions. Be prepared for the criticism and push back that will undoubtedly come. In the end it will help to create a healthier and better legal education system.


I expect the lower-ranking (let alone the for-profit) schools to keep going like this. Their only alternative, cutting class sizes by a large amount) is very painful.

These schools will keep doing what they've been doing until they are closed down by outside forces - either the sheriff's deputy enforcing foreclose and eviction, or a college's board of trustees deciding to amputate a withered and gangrenous limb.


David - Thank you for the blog post. Any chance you could post your complete powerpoint presentation?


There seems to be some large drops at some of the public schools -- Illinois dropped 11% this year; George Mason dropped about 20%. I also note that, at the public schools in particular in the last couple of years, the 25% LSAT and GPA are getting to be way below the median scores. Minnesota, Alabama, and William and Mary, for example, each ranked in US News top 25 (and US News only looks at the median), have their 25% LSAT 6 or 7 points below their median. We do not know what is going on below the 25%ile, but I would guess they each have some requirement for taking in state students and have lower standards there. (Emory, a private, also has a 7 point spread, and also fell 9 points in bar pass this year).


Seconding anon's request, Dan.

Former Editor


David Frakt

Thank you all for your comments. Anon, I am not very familiar with the regulations regarding student loans. I would certainly welcome more oversight from federal regulators of schools that may be abusing federal loan regulations.

I would love to post my entire PowerPoint presentation, but it contains some information from Florida Coastal's Self-Study and other documents that they consider proprietary, and I signed a non-disclosure agreement regarding those documents, so I can't. What I will do is go through the slides and remove the proprietary data and post a sanitized version of the slides. Stay tuned.


The ABA is largely toothless, but I still think ABA accreditation issues will play a role for schools with lower LSAT numbers in the next few years.
It'll be over the course of a number of years though.

We may finally see schools unable to meet either of the bar pass requirements (within 15% of state average on first time or 75% ultimate passage including repeats for three of the last five years). Additionally, if the first time rate drops enough, the ABA has shown the inclination to raise accreditation questions even where the school meets the ultimate repeat percentage. Yes, it was in the context of granting full accreditation to a provisionally accredited school (La Verne). I think they will do it under the general standard or the related standard dealing with only admitting students capable of passing the bar/being lawyers.

Of course, they might do as they did with La Verne, immediately re-grant provisional. However, it will still be a hard, potentially deadly, hit for the schools it happens to. First, they will take a big hit on the ability to attract students (already low). Second, in order to convince higher scoring students to attend, they will have to buy most of their student body. They will also likely have to shrink in size significantly. That will make the financial outlook of the affected school look really, really bad. Millions will have to be dumped in.

In short, the ABA hit might not be directly deadly, but it may do enough damage to force closures. I would not be surprised to see this sort of scenario played out at a number of schools in the next few years.

(This assumes that this year's drop in bar passage was not a fluke of MBE scoring by NCBEX and that schools cannot overcome the link between LSAT and MBE/bar passage.)


The trick is that the ABA education committee is run by the for-profits and bottom-feeder schools. To enforce standards would be cutting their own financial throats.


Thank you for posting redacted slides. Could you also note where Mr. Stone burst into the room to eject you? Cause that would really just make my day. Thanks!

David Frakt

Anon - Based on questions from the audience, I jumped around a bit in the slide presentation, so I managed to hit many of the slides, and I believe I discussed the content of all of the slides. I was on slide 12, and had spent quite a bit of time on it, when President Stone came in and asked me to leave.

David Frakt

The slides are posted at the top of the post in the update section.


Having looked at the slides, I can think of no finer example of why academic tenure - real academic tenure - is a must. The presentation makes a good case for financial decisions driving admissions at the school, in violation of ABA standards and with clear consequences in the future. It's sad that an invited speaker at the school cannot present this speech, and that the faculty are clearly intimidated into silence.

The violations are flagrant and I think the ABA has to do something in response, if they plan on doing anything at all about any rule violations at any point. Anything less indicates a complete unwillingness to oversee legitimate academic principles.


Wow, Anon. First, you say that faculty have nothing to do with law school closures, and you seem to applaud their exculpation and irresponsiblity.

Here, you plead that faculty governance is the key to renewal and reform, and bemoan the "fact" that the faculty were "intimidated" into making decisions that they wouldn't have otherwise made.

What makes you think that the faculty wished to rise up and demand that the presentation continue? What makes you think they would have been terminated had they done so, or had any fear of that outcome? What makes you think that they wanted to hear someone say that the admission standards were too lax? What makes you think the faculty would raise the admission standards if given the opportunity? What evidence is there, ANYWHERE, that law school faculties are fighting for higher admission standards against cruel profiteers who refuse to heed their concern?

Let's ask David. David: did the faculty protest when you were asked to leave? Do agree with Anon's assumption that they were too "intimidated" to do so? Have you received messages of support from the faculty?

It is so striking that shills for law school faculties cannot imagine fault on the part of the willing participants who engage in actions that all can and should condemn.

David Frakt

Anon -
To answer your questions:
No, the faculty did not protest when I was asked to leave. It appeared to me that they were in shock at what was going on and didn't know how to react. One faculty member did walk out when I did, and expressed her disgust with what had just transpired. Several faculty members contacted me privately after this episode to express sympathy for me and outrage at President Stone's actions. All of them except for one who had secured a job elsewhere requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from the administration. One faculty member forwarded me a message from Human Resources which was sent to the faculty shortly after the event forbidding them from speaking about this episode to anyone, and to refer any inquiries from the media to HR. Also, prior to my presentation, I had several small group sessions with faculty members in which some faculty members told me about the atmosphere of intimidation at the school, and efforts to silence or punish dissenting voices. Several of the faculty members shared my concerns with the declining admissions standards and voiced frustration with their inability to do anything about it. I was also contacted by faculty or former faculty from other InfilLaw campuses who described similar experiences. It appeared to me that the atmosphere of academic freedom typically associated with higher education which would enable internal critics to speak out without fear of retribution did not exist at FCSL. The President's silencing of my job talk only served to reinforce the sense that dissent from the corporate party line would not be tolerated.



Thanks. That is indeed interesting. Sounds like faculty at FCSL are hapless victims of their rapacious corporate overlords.

I wonder still, however: What evidence is there, ANYWHERE, that law school faculties are fighting for higher admission standards against cruel profiteers who refuse to heed their concern?

Here in the FL, we hear faculty saying the LSAT is bogus, we hear them saying that they are "opportunity" providers, we hear them say that the bar exam is bogus, we hear them saying the law school critics are hysterical "scam bloggers" and that law school standards are being upheld just fine, etc.

We don't hear all the things you say you heard from law faculty: not much, David. Not much at all.

Prof. John C. Kunich

Prof. Frakt's comments omit some important countervailing factors that counsel against a rigid, hold-the-line-at-all-costs approach to LSAT scores as a non-negotiable criterion for admission to law school. Prof. Frakt notes that there has been a significant diminution in median LSAT scores for virtually all law students in recent years. The ABA standards reflect the undeniable truth that any LSAT score is only one of many factors that influence an individual's prospects for success in law school and beyond.

Prof. Frakt also fails to include key data that contradict his core message. He makes no mention of FCSL's 72.9% bar pass rate for February 2014. The difference between the February and July results is very unlikely to be attributable to a vast difference in median LSAT scores for the two groups. Instead, other influences such as different areas of emphasis on the two bar exams are more apt to be significant. Likewise, Prof. Frakt omits any mention of FCSL's 79.3% bar pass rate in February 2013. The numbers-based credentials of each group are essentially identical, so a statistician's single-minded focus on the figures would be at a loss to explain the varying outcomes. Clearly, other factors than cold, lifeless LSAT numbers from years before the bar exam are exerting a profound effect.

Florida Coastal School of Law is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse law schools in the nation. Their commitment to diversity and to providing an opportunity for underserved communities to have a chance for a career in law should be lauded, not penalized. This school, similar to Charlotte School of Law where I was a tenured professor for several years, relies on a sophisticated blend of factors to predict a person's likelihood of success. Life experiences, a history of overcoming obstacles, personal commitment/work ethic/determination, familial and work responsibilities that had to be met along with academic duties, and other indicia can be crucially important in assessing whether any person has what it takes. Numbers alone cannot describe anyone's merits, nor dictate a human being's future.

FCSL and CSL have two of the most robust and multi-pronged Academic Success programs available anywhere. Beginning from the very earliest stages of a law student's career, a panoply of initiatives and tools is made readily available to assist in surmounting any challenges. These law schools consistently out-perform statistical expectations, in testament to the ability of hard work, sensitivity to learning differences, advanced pedagogical methods, persistence, self-reliance, and teamwork to defy the dire predictions of any numerical metric of a person's capabilities. To sacrifice this, on the altar of a putative gain in bar passage rates, would be to elevate stark statistical predictions over actual human achievement.

One more vital point was overlooked by Prof. Frakt. Florida Coastal's ultimate bar pass rate was, most recently, 88%. Yes, 88%. An uninformed reader never would have guessed this stellar outcome after having read Prof. Frakt's piece. This result is powerful evidence of a key lesson I learned when I served on law school admissions committees for years. I now know, from personal experience, how many prospective students rise far above the supposed limits of their LSAT and UGPA numbers, if only given the opportunity. They may not succeed at first, and they may encounter real struggles along the way, but persistence and dedication are paramount.

This we know for certain: if the door to a law school education is locked for anyone whose numbers fall below some arbitrary cut-off, those people will have zero chance of success in law school or as a lawyer. A more nuanced approach would be to acknowledge the additional challenges that some potential law students may have, but expertly to help them overcome those obstacles rather than to force them surrender preemptively without even trying.

Professor John C. Kunich
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

David Frakt

I think many faculty members at bottom tier schools may simply be too worried about keeping their jobs to advocate for tougher admissions standards. I have observed that speaking out against the policies of one's own law school administration is frequently not career-enhancing.

David Frakt

Thank you, John. I have never advocated for a "rigid, hold-the-line-at-all-costs approach to LSAT scores as a non-negotiable criterion for admission to law school." As I have noted in earlier posts, the LSAT is only one indicator to be considered in the admissions process. If a students has a low LSAT score, but has other strong predictors of success, particularly a strong record of undergraduate academic performance, then it may be reasonable for a law school to give that student a chance. However, the recent admission statistics from FCSL do not support the claim that FCSL is admitting students with low LSATs only when they have other proven countervailing indicators of success. FCSL admitted 2319 of 3085 applicants in 2013, or 75% of those who applied.

As to "ultimate bar pass rate" I am sure that some of the graduates who failed the first time around will eventually pass. But all the data shows that your best chance at passing is the first time you take the test and that your chances of passing decline with each attempt. I do not believe that the group of FCSL grads who just took the bar, and the current cohort of students moving through, will be able to achieve an 88% "ultimate bar pass rate." But I certainly wish them the best.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad