LEGAL EDUCATION

Revised bar passage standard considered for 2019

The nation’s 200 ABA-accredited law schools could see a revised bar passage standard next year based on a proposal adopted by the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

The council, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accreditor of law schools, adopted revisions to its bar passage rules, known as Standard 316. Those revisions state that at least 75 percent of a law school’s graduates who sit for a bar examination must pass a bar examination administered within two years of their date of graduation.

The standard now provides different options for demonstrating compliance, including an “ultimate” bar passage rate of 75 percent over the last five years. Overall, the current standard is overly complicated and the revisions will better protect students and the public, the council determined.

The ABA House of Delegates will consider the change at the ABA Midyear Meeting on Jan. 28, 2019. At the 2017 Midyear Meeting, the House referred a similar revision back to the council for further consideration. The final decision over ABA accreditation standards rests with the council, which can move ahead with a change after the House considers it twice.

Since the House action, the council has collected school-by-school data on “ultimate” bar passage within two years of graduation for graduates of 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as more comprehensive data on first-time bar passage rates for recent graduates. The absence of the revision’s impact on individual schools was a primary reason for the House’s non-concurrence two years ago.

As with any legal education standard, a finding by the council that a school is out of compliance could initiate a process that allows for a school to explain its situation and work its way back into compliance.

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