May 26, 2019

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, LEGAL EDUCATION EDITION: ABA legal ed section’s council adopts tighter bar pass standard; clock for compliance starts now.

Following multiple years of discussion, and two rejections from the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates, the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar adopted a proposed revision to tighten an accreditation standard regarding bar passage Friday.

To be in compliance with the revised version of Standard 316, at least 75% of a law school’s graduates who sat for a bar exam must pass within two years of graduation. Under the previous rule, there were various ways to meet the standard, and no law school had been found to be out of compliance with it.

Those ways include:

• Having a 75% pass rate for all graduates over the five most recent calendar years;

• Having a 75% pass rate for at least three of those five years;

• And having at least 70% of its graduates pass the bar at a rate within 15 percentage points of the average first-time bar pass rate for ABA-approved law school graduates in the same jurisdiction for three out of the five most recently completed calendar years.

Under ABA rules, the House of Delegates can send a proposed revision back to the section’s council twice, but the council has the final decision on matters related to law school education. The House of Delegates voted against the proposed revision in February 2017 and this past January.

This is going to hurt some places.

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