Tougher Bar Passage Requirements for Accreditation Standards
By Keith R. Fisher
Neither years of vigorous opposition nor negative votes on two occasions from the House of Delegates stopped the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar from approving an amendment to one of the law school accreditation requirements, Standard 316. The revisions require that 75% of law graduates who sit for the bar exam pass within 2 years. Opponents of the change have argued that it will have a disproportionate impact on law students from underserved communities. Effective immediately, the amendment will pose challenges for law schools whose 2017 graduates fail to meet this standard when the ABA publishes two-year bar passage data in February 2020; those law schools will then have two years to come into compliance.
The change was prompted by 2016 criticism from the U.S. Department of Education about rising student debt and the phenomenon of increased enrollment of students who were flunking the bar. Based on data from 2016 bar passage, 23 law schools would be at risk for losing accreditation, but the marketplace has already acted for three of them–Arizona Summit, Valparaiso, and Whittier–which are closing.