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2021 Admissions and Bar Pass Update

In light of dramatic improvements in admissions standards at formerly exploitative schools, combined with several of the worst offenders going out of business, last year I abandoned my perennial bottom 10 list of the least selective law schools.  Things continued to improve for the fall entering class of 2021.  Thanks in large part to record numbers of applications, most law schools were able to raise the entrance credentials of their entering classes. Indeed, most did so while also raising the size of their entering class as well.  

Although the overall trend has been positive, with far fewer underqualified students being admitted, there was still one law school in 2020 that I found to have concerning admissions practices - Southern University.   In 2020, Southern's admitted student LSAT credentials were the worst in the country at 146/144/143  for the 75th, 50th and 25th percentile.  The good news is that Southern significantly raised its standards this year.  This years' LSATs are 149/146/144.  The bad news is that Southern is still the least selective law school in the country, by a fairly considerable margin.  The two closest competitors are North Carolina Central at 153/147/145 and Appalachian at 152/147/146.  (Yes, two or three LSAT points make a big difference, especially at this level.)  And the UGPAs for Southern's students are also concerning at 3.39/3.03/2.72.   For comparison, North Carolina Central's entering 1L class had UGPAs of 3.53/3.27/2.99, a significant difference.     The average college GPA these days is 3.15, and closer to 3.25 for social science and humanities majors (e.g. most law students).  Anything below 3.0 typically places a student in the bottom third of the class.   A 2.7 UGPA is downright awful. 

As I have noted many times in the past, students with very low entrance credentials (low test scores and low grades) are at high risk of attrition or of failing the bar after graduation.  Southern had a worrying 63.2% first-time pass rate in 2019.   Fortunately for Southern, most of their 2020 graduates didn't have to take the bar - they were granted diploma privilege.  But for the dozen first-time bar exam takers who went out of state, the pass rate was predictably poor - 41.66%  (5 out of 12).  In comparison, North Carolina Central, which historically has prepared its students very well for the bar exam, had a first-time pass rate of 79.3% across 13 different jurisdictions with an excellent 81.8% first-time pass rate in North Carolina, where the majority of NCC students took the exam. 

Bar Passage

Law schools are required to submit their bar passage data for calendar year 2021 later this week (by March 31, 2021).  Once the numbers come out, I will provide an update on any interesting trends.  As a reminder of the importance of admissions standards and how admissions standards impact bar performance, see this post from last year.   

I am particularly interested to see the numbers from Western Michigan (formerly Cooley). Western Michigan has already failed to make the UBP standard four years running:  class of 2015 - 69.75%, class of 2016 - 69.0%, class of 2017 - 66.0%, and class of 2018 - 62.3%.   It is very likely that the class of 2019 will also fall short, as that class had a first-time pass rate of 35.8%.  In May 2020, Western Michigan was found by the ABA to be significantly out of compliance with Standard 316, but there has been no public notice of any further action by the ABA since then.  Although Western Michigan has now raised its admission standards to an acceptable level, the fallout from many years of unacceptably low admission standards continues and likely will for another two years.  If the UBP standard (Standard 316) is to have any teeth at all, the ABA must do something to Western Michigan to penalize the school for its many years of unethical admissions practices leading to repeated bar failures.  A most fitting penalty would be some form of refund to those students who graduated but have never been able to pass the bar after two or more attempts. 

June 10, 2022

May 17, 2022

May 12, 2021

March 03, 2021

August 28, 2020

April 07, 2020

February 25, 2020

February 23, 2020

February 21, 2020

December 16, 2019

May 17, 2019

May 02, 2019

April 28, 2019

March 04, 2019

February 26, 2019

January 28, 2019

December 14, 2018

November 30, 2018

November 29, 2018

November 05, 2018


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