BAR PASSAGE CRATERS – TOO MANY LAW SCHOOLS.
Edmund R. Folsom, Esq., April 16, 2017.
It’s no secret that there are too many law schools and not enough lawyer jobs for their graduates. More than 50 new law schools have been accredited by the ABA since the mid-1970’s. There are now 200 fully accredited and 3 provisionally accredited law schools in the U.S. (that’s right, as if we don’t have enough of them, the ABA is still in the process of accrediting new ones). In the current overcrowded and nasty down market for lawyers, fewer people are signing up for law school. Applications dropped from 88,700 in 2006 to about 51,000 in 2015. That leaves a glut of schools looking for ways to fill seats and keep the doors open. That has led to a significant decline in admission standards over the past several years, and bar passage rates that have declined right along with them. At some point, this becomes cruel. At 51 ABA accredited law schools, the bottom quartile of 1st year students enrolled in 2016 are at “extreme risk” or “very high risk” to fail the bar exam, according to the watchdog group Law School Transparency. This means, at 51 ABA accredited law schools, the bottom 25 percent of enrolled students had LSAT scores of 146 or below. A score of 146, by the way, represents roughly the 30th percentile of all takers of the LSAT. In other words, 70 percent of all those who took the LSAT did better than the bottom quarter of accepted students at 51 ABA accredited law schools. For some of those 51 schools, fully half of their enrolled 2016 1st year students had LSAT scores of 146 or below. Six of the 51 schools are in New England: Roger Williams (RI), Western New England University School of Law (MA), New England School of Law (MA), Suffolk University School of Law (MA), Vermont Law School (VT), and U. Mass. Dartmouth Law (MA). At an additional 31 ABA accredited schools, the bottom quartile of 2016 1st year students are considered to be at “high risk” not to pass the bar, with an LSAT score of 147-149. U. Maine Law falls into this latter category. At U. Maine Law, from 2012 to 2016, the bottom quartile LSAT score for enrolled 1st year students fell from 152 (roughly a 51st percentile score) to 147 (roughly a 33rd percentile score), even as class size shrank. The undergraduate grade point average for 25th percentile 1st year students who enrolled at U. Maine Law in 2016 is 2.95 (and grade inflation has taken us way past the day when any student with a 3.0 g.p.a. graduated cum laude from his or her undergraduate institution). None of this is good… not in the least. How low can we go? It could be a very costly experiment for the guinea pigs.
And it just got worse with the results of the February 2017 multistate bar exam– the worst results EVER!!! The ABA writes about it here: “Multistate bar exam scores drop to lowest point ever, is there a link to low-end LSAT scores?”:
Update 6/12/17, the trend continues: http://abovethelaw.com/2017/06/law-school-applications-with-terrible-lsat-scores-are-soaring/
Update 9/17/2017. Charlotte Law closes its doors and North Carolina bar pass rate rises markedly: http://abovethelaw.com/2017/09/bar-exam-passage-rates-soar-thanks-to-law-schools-closure/