Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Erwin Chemerinsky -- why students fail the CA bar exam

Why can't increasingly sub-par students not pass the CA bar? ichininosan12/22/16
Just an aside - I hate the way that man talks. During his b youngbuck12/22/16
While I generally disagree with the position that the bar is dingbat12/22/16
One problem: the bar doesn't actually "measure" anything. patenttrollnj12/22/16
how on earth could they possibly measure how many new attorn dingbat12/22/16
At root, the job of a law school dean -- nearly every dean i ichininosan12/22/16
I've always thought that CA bar passage rates were notorious cheapbrass12/22/16
The CA-only accredited and non-accredited schools only pull ichininosan12/22/16
Wow. Spot on. The deans don't want anyone pissing where they sfgiantsfan01/11/17
It's a pretty easy answer. A) They don't have the skills or mtobeinf01/11/17
It's not the snowflakes' fault though. They've been told sin onehell01/11/17
Interesting stats. It looks like there is a low point beyon jeffm01/11/17
Isn't the LSAT graded on a curve as well? I'd be curious to 2breedbares01/11/17
its not graded on a curve, it's normalized, so that the same dingbat01/11/17
ichininosan (Dec 22, 2016 - 12:53 am)

Why can't increasingly sub-par students not pass the CA bar?

Ask a dean (tinfoil hat edition):

http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2016/12/who-can-solve-the-mystery-of-why-california-bar-exam-pass-rates-are-falling

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youngbuck (Dec 22, 2016 - 5:33 pm)

Just an aside - I hate the way that man talks. During his bar review lecture, I made a mental catalogue of all the things in the room I could use to make myself deaf so I wouldnt have to hear his voice

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dingbat (Dec 22, 2016 - 7:25 am)

While I generally disagree with the position that the bar is too difficult, I agree with this statement:

"But I think that the more important question is whether the bar exam is measuring the skills that show a person is likely to be a competent attorney."

Part of it is that transactional work requires a very different skillset than litigation, which is a different skillset from tax, which is a different skillset from estate planning, which is a different skillset from patent

and I'm not even talking about knowledge here. As much as I doubt I'll ever use e.g. Crim ever again, I understand its inclusion in the body of knowledge tested.

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patenttrollnj (Dec 22, 2016 - 3:31 pm)

One problem: the bar doesn't actually "measure" anything.

It's a pass/fail test. Thus, the bar exam is only concerned with whether someone has a minimal amount of familiarity with general legal concepts in order to be allowed to practice law.

However, you're spot-on about the bar NOT being all that difficult.

In my humble opinion, they should ONLY pass as many people as they need new lawyers in that state. Thus, if a certain state only has 10 jobs for new lawyers, they should only pass the 12 highest scores (allow an additional 2 or so for good measure). Thus, if 20 people took the bar, 8 people did not pass. If 30 people took it, then 18 failed.

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dingbat (Dec 22, 2016 - 5:29 pm)

how on earth could they possibly measure how many new attorneys are needed in a state like NY?

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ichininosan (Dec 22, 2016 - 8:22 am)

At root, the job of a law school dean -- nearly every dean is to convince college graduates that it makes sense to take on $150K+ in debt for the privilege of practicing law. When the graduates can't practice law -- either because their is no employment market for their services or because of other barriers to entry -- it exposes an existential threat to the deans' whole enterprise, i.e. it looks more than a little scammy. When Dean Chemerinsky starts lashing out at the bar exam, you can be certain something more is at stake. To wit,compare UC Hastings -- Bar Pass Rates with the 50% / 25% LSAT scores of their incoming students.

Bar Pass -- first time taker:

2010: 80.3%
2011: 78.6%
2012: 76.4%
2013: 74.2%
2014: 68.4%
2015: 67.5%
2016: 51%

Incoming LSAT score 50% 25% (class size):

2007: 163/160 (401)
2008: 163/161 (426)
2009: 164/161 (469)
2010: 164/160 (383)
2011: 162/157 (414)
2012: 162/157 (317)
2013: 159/155 (333)

Students who entered in 2007 almost always sat for the bar in 2010. The correlation between incoming LSAT scores and bar passage three years later is strong and the obvious way to "fix" the problem is to stop lower law school admission standards.

... but that is not in any dean's interest. So, troll the bar exam with allegations that it is "raising standards."

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cheapbrass (Dec 22, 2016 - 2:14 pm)

I've always thought that CA bar passage rates were notoriously low because of the amount of unaccredited/tier 4 schools in California producing low quality graduates unready to take the CA bar.

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ichininosan (Dec 22, 2016 - 3:27 pm)

The CA-only accredited and non-accredited schools only pull the scores down a little bit because there are few test-takers that fall into this category. But you are right about the Fourth Tier school (Whittier, San Francisco, La Verne, TJSL, etc.) What has the law deans of the (21!) ABA-accredited schools losing their minds is that there pass rates are dropping. Compare the 2008 to 2016 first time pass rates:

2008
Overall - 74.8% (4682 / 6257)
CA ABA Approved - 83.2% (3114 / 3745)
Out-of State ABA - 74.9% (1142 / 1524)
CA Accredited - 36.6% (126 / 344)
CA Unaccredited - 32.4% (47 / 145)

2016
Overall - 56.1% (2896 / 5164)
CA ABA Approved - 62.4% (2025 / 3247)
Out-of State ABA - 60.4% (597 / 989)
CA Accredited - 20.5% (54 / 263)
CA Unaccredited - 23.8% (20 / 84)

You reed only compare the LSAT scores for the 2005 incoming class (that sat for the 2008 bar exam) to the 2013 incoming class (that sat for the 2016 bar exam) to understand why this is happening. LSAT 25% / 75%:

TJSL
2005: 150 / 155
2013: 144 / 149

Whittier
2005: 150 / 154
2013: 145/ 152

Golden Gate
2005: 151 / 155
2013: 147 / 153

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sfgiantsfan (Jan 11, 2017 - 8:21 am)

Wow. Spot on. The deans don't want anyone pissing where they eat their filet mignon.

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mtobeinf (Jan 11, 2017 - 8:51 am)

It's a pretty easy answer. A) They don't have the skills or legal acumen to succeed; B) They don't put in the work necessary to obtain such; and C) Many should have never been admitted in the first place.

Fact of the matter is the failures (absent smart lazy but able students with a track record of law school success) simply are not meant for law and should not be there in the first place.

And that goes for the whole lot of you. All the states. My school is at 91 percent. The year prior was lower and those kids were idiots that everyone knew sucked when they were 1Ls. Ain't rocket science here.

You are the weakest link. Goodbye.

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onehell (Jan 11, 2017 - 11:43 am)

It's not the snowflakes' fault though. They've been told since birth that they could be anything they wanted if they worked hard, that anyone who says otherwise is just sour grapes and worst of all, that quitter=loser (when in fact it's just the opposite; smart people know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em).

People should take the LSAT earlier in college, e.g. in freshman or sophomore year when they're still figuring out what they want to do. But by the time you take the LSAT now, you've already told all your friends and family that a lawyer is what you want to become. If you don't follow through, then it's personal failure. There's immense pressure to just find somewhere that'll take you, and there's far too many schools happy to oblige.

The LSAT should be seen more like an aptitude test than an IQ test to reduce the shame of doing poorly on it, which in turn reduces the shame associated with taking a different course. It's like how many people feel no shame in saying stuff like "I'm just bad at math" or "I hate writing papers." The implication is that there's something else you ARE good at. But as it stands, admitting you did too poorly on the LSAT for law school is like saying "I'm stupid," because it amounts to admitting you aren't good at something you previously prided yourself on.

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jeffm (Jan 11, 2017 - 9:04 am)

Interesting stats. It looks like there is a low point beyond which people just won't go to law school. The non-accreds were pretty much already there. The accreds are sinking in that direction.

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2breedbares (Jan 11, 2017 - 11:51 am)

Isn't the LSAT graded on a curve as well? I'd be curious to see if the overall raw scores of recent students is also lower than years past, as I suspect they are. I remember there being some variance when I took practice tests. There was one practice test where I had a particularly high raw score out of the norm for me, but the curved score was within range for me (the curved score was based on real scores from LSAT takers that year).

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dingbat (Jan 11, 2017 - 11:55 am)

its not graded on a curve, it's normalized, so that the same test-taker should get the same score regardless of whether they took the LSAT last year or last decade

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