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January 26, 2016


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David Frakt

Matt -

I applied for the one of the at-large positions on the ABA Council this year, but was never contacted. Those who think that it would be useful to have someone like me on the ABA Council Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar are welcome to nominate me at the link provided by Matt. If you need any information, contact me at

David Frakt

Paul Campos -

Thank you for providing this historical context.

Mack - I too noticed the lack of the usual defenders. Makes me think the usual defenders are affiliated with InfiLaw and happy to see Cooley taking the heat for a change.


The next step will be the ABA, backed by law schools like Cooley, trying to lower the bar exam requirements in every state by claiming they're racist/discriminatory and that entry and graduation from any law school, regardless of the admission criteria, is sufficient to prove that someone is able to practice law in any state. Count on it.

terry malloy

@ Jackie

Dean Allard of Brooklyn is already making that claim. The plummeting Brooklyn Law School admission statistics have nothing to do with his position. No. thing.



Take a look at Golden Gate Law's bar pass rate.

Interestingly, the admission standards there seem a bit higher than Cooley's.

Given Golden Gate's record, should one surmise it is just the poor instruction there, or is there some other factor at play?

David Frakt

anon -

The bar exam in California is much tougher than in Michigan. The MBE cut score in California is 144, second only to Delaware's 145, and much higher than Michigan's 135. So, California law schools have to have higher admission standards if they want to have a halfway decent bar pass rate. This would explain why Golden Gate might have a lower bar pass rate while accepting slightly stronger students. But if you compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges, you can see that Cooley is not actually doing better than Golden Gate head to head. Quite a few Cooley students take the California bar exam, and they do atrociously. Cooley's 509 report shows that in 2013, 5 of 40 Cooley grads passed the bar the first time, a 12.5% pass rate. In the summer of 2014, 1 out of 16 Cooley students passed the California bar on their first attempt. In February 2015, Cooley grads were 0 for 10 in California. On the July 2015 California bar, Cooley students went 0 for 8 on their first try. So, on the last 3 California bar exams, Cooley is 1 for 34 (3%).

What these numbers point to is that the statistics published by a law school about their bar pass rate are often quite misleading. Law schools need only report from enough jurisdictions so that 70% of their students are covered. Even though Cooley was 0 for 18 in California in 2015, these students won't be reflected in their reported bar pass rate for 2015 because Cooley will almost certainly not include the California students in the 70% that they do report. A school's real bar pass rate could easily be 5 or 10 percentage points lower than the reported rate if schools were required to report all results instead of just states that add up to 70%.



SOrry for the misunderstanding. I didn't mean to state that "Cooley is not doing better than Golden Gate at all." (I'm still pondering that construction: you are thinking that I meant that Cooley is doing better than Golden Gate or that Golden Gate is doing better than Cooley?) In any event, I meant neither.

If I am reading its disclosures correctly:

For 2014, Golden Gate's bar pass rate was more than 20% points lower than the state wide average.

For 2013, Golden Gate's bar pass rate was more than 15% lower than the state wide average.

Because the measure is off state averages, this metric is more valid, it seems to me, than trying to see how Cooley students did on the California bar. In any event, I wasn't interested much in comparing Cooley to Golden Gate.

My point was this: Golden Gate's history is public knowledge. If you are not familiar with it, you might want to take a look and think about how that might influence your thoughts.

My question was this: the LSAT profile of Golden Gate's admits is not necessarily within the danger zones that you identify with respect to law schools overall. If reliance on LSAT scores is valid across the board, should we surmise that Golden Gate suffers more from poor instruction than from underqualified admits?

David Frakt

anon -

Ok. I think I understand what you are asking now, although I am not really sure what you are driving at or why. It seems that you are saying that Golden Gate's bar results are lower than they should be based on the LSAT profile of their admitted students. So, for example, looking at the entering class of 2011, Golden Gate had an entering class of 155/152/150. I think you are suggesting that a class composed of students with those LSAT scores should have done better on the 2014 bar than they actually did, and asking me if I think that the problem is poor instruction.

First of all, I have no personal knowledge about the quality of teaching instruction at Golden Gate, but my experience has been that the quality of instruction is pretty good and pretty comparable at most law schools, so I tend to doubt that is the explanation, but it certainly could be part of the problem if it is true that Golden Gate students underperformed their potential. But, generally speaking, it is not all that surprising that Golden Gate's numbers are 15-20% below the state average and there could be several explanations other than quality of instruction.

First, Golden Gate has a significant transfer attrition problem. Many of its top students leave for other bay area schools with better reputations, so that tends to depress the bar pass results. Second, there is a hidden 24% of students that we don't know about, since schools only report at the 25th percentile. Since Golden Gate's 25th was at 150 in 2011, most, if not all of the remaining 24% of the admitted students would be considered to be high risk or higher if they were at 149 or below. This is especially true in California where the cutoff scores are much higher. Third, there are many really good schools in California (Stanford, Berkeley, Hastings, Davis, UCLA, USC, Pepperdine, Loyola, USD, UC Irvine, Santa Clara) and several not so good schools so there is often a significant disparity between the good and not good.

Whatever is causing Golden Gate's bar passage problems, their bar passage rate is not likely to improve anytime soon, because their admission standards have plummeted since 2011. In 2015, their median dropped to 148 and their 25th to 145, and even lower (143) for their part-time division. This is a recipe for bar disaster in California, where students at 145 and below do extremely poorly (as evidenced by the recent bar results from Whittier, Thomas Jefferson, Cooley, the InfiLaw schools, et al.)

In terms of influencing my thoughts, I'm not sure what lessons you think I should draw from Golden Gate's recent bar passage results, but feel free to enlighten me.



Lighten up! I don't recall asking you to learn any lessons and I don't care to influence your thoughts.

I asked a few questions, to see if you had any thoughts.

If you want to learn some lessons, you might check out that history, as I suggested, and if you want influence, you might also think about, as you wage your campaign, what the "safe harbors" in the ABA standards are all about.

And, you might tone down the condescending attitude. Attacking people who are not disagreeing with you is unseemly, as is ridiculously rephrasing their points into incomprehensible formulations. To return your attitude, glad to see you could finally understand what I was asking!


I have encountered one Golden Gate Law graduate in practice. Based on interactions with him, I did not believe it was possible that he had graduated from a U.S. law school and passed the law. He is literally the most incompetent person I have encountered in any walk of life. Even better, he is wholly unburdered by self doubt-- he is quite convinced he is the second coming of Clarence Darrow notwithstanding that he actually appears to be borderline illiterate. Of course a dud can slip through even a good screening system at any law school but I googled and he's considered by GGL to be one of their most accomplished graduates. Not a ringing endorsement for the quality of their law school.

Archangel Raguel

The ABA will one day be held responsible for their inaction. Sadly, that day may be further in the future than many of us would like, and a large fraction of the bad actors will be retired. It's always easy to hold a Congressional hearing on why the barn burned down, but not always so easy to bring out the fire engine while the fire is still raging.


From ABA Journal, Belief in Bias Can Block Your Success

Posted Sep 01, 2012

"the assistant dean of bar exam services at San Francisco’s Golden Gate University School of Law, had a real-world experience to share that supports the study’s findings. In 2005, he told the audience, the school was put on ABA probation because of low rates of bar exam passage. After speaking with students, he determined that because the school did not have a good reputation, particularly compared to other Northern California law schools, they often did not expect they would pass the bar on their first try.

“I tried to counter all the negative identities and switch them to one that was more positive. If someone was at the top of their class, I emphasized that. If someone had a lot of common sense, I emphasized that,” [he] said. When he started, Golden Gate’s bar passage rate was 32 percent. Four years later, [he] said, it reached 77 percent."

In 2005 ... before the "crisis" ... ABA probation! And, do you believe the reason given here for the abysmal bar pass rate and snap recovery? (the self esteem effort alluded to above?) How could such a dramatic shift occur in four years? Self esteem counseling?

What explains the abysmal bar passage numbers now, so soon after this supposed "recovery"?

As David acknowledges above, the LSAT scores of the admits do not fully explain the present results.

David's comment above reflects a typical consensus, which is striking coming from someone who is attempting to disrupt it.

He states: "my experience has been that the quality of instruction is pretty good and pretty comparable at most law schools."

Really? I've read his bio, and I wonder to what experience he refers. And, I've read his rationales for Golden Gate's abysmal bar passage performance (transfers, the low scores hidden beneath the 25 percentile, etc.). These rationales sound like bogus excuses.

These bogus excuses apply to every other law school. The schools are competing in the same state, the students are taking the same bar, etc. Students transfer out of all lower ranked schools. Golden Gate's issue began before the "crisis" and, as David acknowledges above, the repeated failure does not correlate that well with LSAT scores alone.

Given the nature of the issue, again, can one surmise that faculty culture and poor instruction is the core problem at Golden Gate?

Until the ABA is willing to stop the tap dancing and face up to reality, this problem in general will continue. What David misses is that it is professional courtesy that is in the way, not loose standards. Whatever the standards, no one will enforce them as long as folks, even David!, believe that there is no such thing as a poor quality, failing law school.

David Frakt

anon -

We seem to be talking about two different problems here. You are talking about a school that admitted students with a reasonable capacity for the study of law, and then failed to impart the skills and knowledge to them needed to pass the California bar exam at a rate commensurate with their predictors. This is a Standard 316 issue, where law schools fail to maintain reasonable bar pass rates.

The problem I am focused on in this post is the problem of law schools knowingly admitting students who do not have the intellectual capacity to learn the skills and retain and apply the knowledge necessary to earn a J.D. or pass the bar exam. That is an admissions problem that should be dealt with Standard 501. The alternative is to wait four years for the students who shouldn't have been admitted in the first place to flunk the bar, and then discipline the school at that point, but I think that gives law schools too long of a window to exploit unqualified students. And the way Standard 316 is right now, it actually takes a couple of really bad years before a school would be subject to discipline.

I don't know what the problem(s) is or are at Golden Gate, assuming there are problems. If Golden Gate wanted to hire me as a consultant, I'm sure I could help them identify and fix the problems.

I agree that some law schools educate marginal students better than others. But without personal knowledge of the situation at Golden Gate I would not make the assumption that poor teaching is the problem.



Fair enough. But, why then make the opposite assumption? ("my experience has been that the quality of instruction is pretty good and pretty comparable at most law schools.") That assumption, combined with reference to a consulting gig, is, frankly, troubling.

I have been reading your posts with great interest, as you have appeared to be a credible, disinterested and objective commenter, willing to stand up to the status quo.

As for the link between 501 and 316, I believe you have done this in your next post on this site. The two work hand in hand, obviously (what is the point of speaking of predictors without evaluating the results of the predictions?)

Finally, if you are to be credible critic of the ABA, you should be VERY familiar with actual case studies, and, IMHO, Golden Gate would be a great place to start. One would think that you would be studying in great detail to determine what went right and what went wrong. If you do so, I hope you will learn the reasons that Golden Gate would have no reason to hire you as a consultant to "help them identify and fix the problems." (You don't seem familiar with the actual facts.)

Just saying ...



Might I suggest that the answer is somewhere in the middle. Considered at a "national" level Golden Gate is admitting students that meet Standard 501 - but at a state, California Level that may not be the case, though there may also be failures in their teaching. The CA bar exam, as you say, is tougher than others - something it shares with a few other states - but broadly across all states bar exams are much less difficult.

Some 24 years ago, when I sat and passed the New York Bar I found it ridiculously easy, and since I was working (I worked most of my way through law school) and at the time had two weeks to prepare (my boss was a lawyer who was also the president of the DC bar who suggested that I should perhaps study to prevent embarassment.) Still I was aware of classmates who rushed to other states after the New York bar to take their infamously easy bar exam - known as a "safety bar." Pennsylvania was the most popular - it was alleged that all one needed was a pulse and a signature.

In any event it is hard to escape the fact that there are two aspects to ABA 501 - a school meeting a national standard and also meeting the standard in those legal markets where its graduates tend to end up. Golden Gates graduates mostly stay in CA, that has to be part of the 501 question.


Here's a clue, folks:

From the ABA journal article quoted above:

“I tried to counter all the negative identities and switch them to one that was more positive. If someone was at the top of their class, I emphasized that. If someone had a lot of common sense, I emphasized that,” [he] said. When he started, Golden Gate’s bar passage rate was 32 percent. Four years later, [he] said, it reached 77 percent."

Aside from a delusion of grandeur, what could result in such a dramatic change? To be sure, there are ways to game the results. But, if the needle goes back down, like a car running out of gas, when the attention is removed, does that tell us nothing about faculty culture and competence? And, what of the "predictors" and the actual results?

Please, take a look at the facts, David. You are speaking about ABA action. There is much to learn here.

David Frakt

anon -

Thank you for the compliments, and for the suggestions. Unfortunately, with a full-time job as a solo practitioner, a part-time job as an Air Force Reserve JAG, father of two energetic elementary school-aged boys, and with several other writing and public service obligations, and an addiction to playing tennis, I don't always have the time to familiarize myself with every fact about every troubled law school in the country. Nobody pays me to be a critic of law schools or the ABA. I am doing this work as a service to potential law students and to the profession as a whole. I freely admit to being uninformed about Golden Gate's history, but I will look into it when I get a chance. Feel free to send me any information that you think I should be familiar with.

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