Archive for the ‘Law Schools’ Category

ABA Class of 2012 9-Month Employment Data

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Today, the ABA released the 9-month employment data for the Class of 2012 (ABA Release, March 29).

More importantly, the ABA has taken a long-needed step towards transparency by establishing an Employment Summary Report website with

  • down-loadable all-school Excel(r) spreadsheets of the Employment Reports for the classes of 2010, 2011 and 2012 (EX is the last column, so I guess that’s 128 columns), and
  • each law-school’s reports for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 classes.

Gary Rosin

AALS on ABA Standards Review

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

In  letter dated, March 28, 2011, the AALS has questioned the process by which the ABA Section of Legal Education, and  the Standards Review Committee, are revising the ABA Standards.  As Paul Caron put it on TaxProf, “AALS Goes to War Over ABA’s Proposed Accreditation Standards Changes.“  That is putting it gently.  The AALS suggests that

[t]he SRC appears to be involved in a thought experiment that asks whether its members could imagine the existence of a school that would produce ethical, competent entry-level lawyers if the standards subtracted any particular element of the current standards…..

Id. at 2 (emphasis added).  The AALS argues that

[t]he vision animating the current standards proposals is not entirely clear, and the SRC has never invited or entertained a conversation about the broader vision of legal education advanced by its interlocking set of proposed changes. But one thing is clear: all constituencies need opportunities to discuss the overall vision behind and the combined effect of the proposed radical changes to those standards, standards that have been relied on by all accredited schools, state Supreme Courts, and the public that depends on the quality of the bar in life-changing matters.

Id. at 2.  The AALS letter concludes by asking the Council and the SRC to:

1. Reject the radical proposed changes to the role of the faculty, and other changes to the standards that would weaken, rather than strengthen, legal education.

2. Initiate a process for the specific purpose of allowing all important constituencies to understand and debate the vision animating the current proposals and their combined effect on legal education.

3. Undertake or commission an independent, fact-based study of the actual cost drivers in legal education, and their relationship with the accreditation process.

Id. at 10.

Hat tip to Paul Caron and to Mary Lynch (Best Practices for Legal Education).

posted by Gary Rosin

Update:  National Law Journal has an article, available on Law.Com,  AALS urges delay in debate over law school cccreditation standards that discusses the AALS letter. The article quotes Donald Polden, Chair of the Standards Review Committee:

“[A]fter 2 1/2 years of working on the comprehensive review in a highly transparent manner, I have some definite thoughts about the AALS’ recent request,” ….

* * *

“We would argue that we’ve had that public debate,” …

 The article said that Hulett Askew, the Consultant onf Legal Education indicated that

Before the committee started drafting proposals, it agreed in 2009 upon a set of principles and fundamental goals. They include assuring education quality, advancing the core mission of legal education, accountability for law schools, clarity and precision in the standards, and assessing program quality and student learning.

The AALS did not object or comment on those goals when they were established, Askew said.

Changing Demographics of Historically Black Law Schools

Sunday, March 27th, 2011
Florida A&M, Howard University, North Carolina Central, Southern, and Texas Southern were all formed, as early as 1869 (Howard), but largely in the 1940’s, with the primary mission of educating Black/African American lawyers. With those roots, one might expect that their student bodies would still be predominately Black/African American. But, as Bob Dylan once sang, “the times they are a changin’.”

As shown in the above table, over the three most recent academic years for which information has been published in the Official Guide, at Atlanta’s John Marshall, White/Caucasian students predominate, with Black/African-American students just over a fifth of the class. At the University of the District of Columbia, White/Caucasian students have constituted a plurality of the entering classes. During that period, at three of the remaining schools, Florida A&M, North Carolina Central, and Texas Southern, Black/African-American students constituted at least a plurality of entering students, with the last two hovering near 50% of the class. Only Howard and Southern remain strongly Black/African American institutions. During that period, at five of the schools, White/Caucasian students have a substantial presence—at least 35%. At Texas Southern, the second-largest component of entering classes has been Hispanic students. Only at Howard is predominantly Black/African-American, with no strong presence of any of the other ethnic groups.
As recently as 1998, Black/African-American students made up 68.3% of the entering class at the University of the District of Columbia (DC). Beginning with the next entering class, the Black/African-American share of the class began falling, and reached a low of 25.0% for the 2005 class. What happened after 1998? According to the Official Guide, DC was accredited in 1991, so it would have been due for a sabbatical inspection around 1998.
Professor John Nussbaumer argues that the ABA uses its initial and periodic accreditation reviews to pressure law schools to raise the LSAT scores of the low end of their entering classes. John Nussbaumer, The Disturbing Correlation between ABA Accreditation Review and Declining African-American Law School Enrollment, 80 ST. JOHN’S L. REV. 991 (2006) (“Disturbing Correlation”);  John Nussbaumer, Misuse of the Law School Admissions Test, Racial Discrimination, and the De Facto Quota System for Restricting African-American Access to the Legal Profession, 80 ST. JOHN’S L. REV. 167, 178-79 (2006) (“Restricting Access”). As shown in the following chart, decreases in the Black/African-American share of entering classes are largely mirrored by increases in the 25th percentile of the LSAT scores of the entering classes:

Although the ABA began including in the Official Guide data on entering classes of Atlanta’s John Marshall as of its Fall 2007 class, it is likely that John Marshall is the “School X” described in “Case Study One” discussed by Professor Nussbaumer in Disturbing Trend, 80 ST. JOHN’S L. REV. at 178. First, it “is located in a major metropolitan area with a large minority and African-American population.”  Second, it “seeks to provide non¬traditional students with access to the legal profession.”   Third, Prof. Nussbaumer says that School X was “recently” given full ABA approval.  Disturbing Trends was published in 2006, in the first issue of volume 80; Atlanta’s John Marshall was fully accredited in 2005.
In any event, School X also underwent a radical demographic transformation. Between 1999 and 2004, it raised the LSAT 25th percentile of entering classes from 138 to 148. Concurrently with that increase, total minority enrollment fell from 74% to 46% (i.e., it became a majority White/Caucasian school), and Black/African-American enrollment fell from 62% to 32%. Id. at 178 & 181-F, tbl. 9.
By the time the law school at Florida A&M was reorganized after a hiatus of over thirty years, and the ABA began publishing information on its entering classes, it was already only a plurality Black/African-American institution.
The ABA may not have a so-called “floor” on the LSAT scores of admitted applicants. We do know that the ABA has used Bar passage rates to measure not only compliance with Standard 301 (adequacy of program of legal education), but also Standard 501(b):
A law school shall not admit applicants who do not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its educational program and being admitted to the bar.
2010-2011 Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, Standard 501(b) (emphasis added). Even before the adoption of Interpretation 301–6, the ABA’s Accreditation Committee had been using a standard for first-time Bar passage of below 70% and more than 10 points below the state average for ABA-accredited schools Bar passage standards no being proposed are the standards that the ABA had been using. See, e.g., Memorandum from Greg Murphy, Chair, Accreditation Committee, to Richard Morgan, Chair, Standards Review Committee, on Interpretation 301–6,at 1 (May 2, 2007) (“Murphy Memorandum”)(copy on file with author).
The Murphy Memorandum also indicates that the Accreditation Committee also was relying on cumulative (ultimate) Bar passage rates, but does not indicate the minimum used by that committee.  However, when the Standards Review Committee first proposed the use of difference scores and cumulative Bar passage rates, it proposed a 10% difference score and an 80% cumulative Bar passage rates. Memorandum from Richard L. Morgan, Chair and Hulett H. Askew, Consultant, to Standards Review Committee, regarding Wednesday, May 17, 2007 Hearing and Meeting (May 16, 2007). Given that the 10% difference score was the standard being used by the Accreditation Committee, it suggests that the 80% cumulative rate may also have been the standard that that committee was then using.
Given the links between both first-time and cumulative Bar passage rates and group LSAT scores, quickly increasing a law school’s Bar passage rates means quickly increasing the LSAT scores of its entering classes. The widespread increases in the LSAT 25th percentiles at historically Black law schools, and the associated decreases in the share of Black/African-enrollment, are probably associated with the use of the very Bar passage standards which are again being proposed.
Posted by Gary Rosin

The LSAT and Historically Black Law Schools

Friday, March 25th, 2011

In recent years, there has been great concern about law schools relying too heavily on LSAT scores in admissions.  The argument is that LSAT scores are at best an imperfect predictor of the academic success of individual law students, as measured by first-year GPAs.  Moreover, academic success, is an even more imperfect predictor of success as a practicing lawyer.  That said, the LSAT is more reliable when it comes to the predicting the success of groups, including Bar passage rates.  For example, consider Chart 1, based on the data used in the LSAC Bar Passage Study, which shows the cumulative Bar passage rates over multiple attempts of persons with the same LSAT score:

Chart 1 

Note:  at the time of the LSAC Bar Passage Study (the entering class of Fall 1991), LSAT scores were reported on a scale that ranged from 10 to 48, rather than the current 120-180 scale.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the curve shown in Chart 1 is that a one-unit difference in LSAT (e.g., 35 vs. 36) has a larger effect on cumulative Bar passage as LSAT drops—the curve is much steeper at an LSAT of 19 that it is at an LSAT of 40.  This phenomenon is important in crafting an entering class, which will include persons with a range of different LSATs.  The ramifications of the phenomenon loom especially large for law schools with lower LSAT medians and 25th and 75th percentiles. 

And there’s the rub:  many of the historically Black law schools have entering-student LSAT scores at or near the bottom of those of all mainland law schools (i.e., excluding Puerto Rica and Hawaii).  For example, over the Fall 2006 through Fall 2009 entering classes, the average of the LSAT 25th percentile for each school averaged 154.7, with a standard deviation of 5.68.  The bottom four ABA law schools were Florida A&M, Southern, North Carolina Central and Texas Southern, while District of Columbia, Atlanta’s John Marshall  and Howard were grouped around the 15th percentile.


While each school is required to report recent cumulative Bar passage rates to the ABA, that information is neither published in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools (as of the 2011 edition), nor distributed to all ABA law schools via the annual “ABA take-offs.”  As a result, there is no data from which to perform a study along the line of that reported in my article, Unpacking the Bar:  Of Cut Scores and Competence, 32 J. Legal Prof. 67 (2008) (SSRN Absttract No. 988429), for first-time Bar passage rates.  While the shape of the resulting logistic “S” curve is unknown, the effect of a one-point change in law-school LSAT on law-school cumulative Bar passage rates will be much larger at the low end of law-school LSATs than it is at the high end, which means that the historically Black law schools will be at much greater risk of being affected by raising the minimum “ultimate” (cumulative) standard in 301–6 from 75% to 80%.

Posted by Gary Rosin

The Importance of Historically Black Law Schools

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), historically Black law schools (HBLS) still plays an important role in the education Black/African American law schools.  According to the ABA’s statistics, the proportion of entering law students who were Black/African American peaked in 1998, at 8.1%, and then fell to 6.5% in 2005.  Since then, that proportion increased to 7.3% in 2009.  Because those statistics includes students enrolled in historically Black law schools, it does not show the level of minority enrollment in law schools in which a majority of the students are White/Caucasian–the bulk of law schools.  As shown in Table 1, for the Fall 2006 through Fall 2009 entering classes, Black/African-American enrollment in majority White/Caucasian law schools has average 6.4%, lower than the shares of both Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic, entering students:

Arguably, seven ABA-accredited law schools are historically Black law schools:  Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia (DC); Florida A&M (FL); Atlanta’s John Marshall (GA), Southern University (LA), North Carolina Central University (NC), and Texas Southern University (TX).  As shown in Table 2, these seven schools are vital to the opportunity of Black/African-American students to enroll in law school.  

The seven historically Black law schools represented only 2.7% of the Fall 2005 through Fall 2009 entering classes, as a group, but 16.3% of Black/African-American entering students.  Within the jurisdictions in which they are located, the historically Black law schools represented a much greater portion of Black/African American law students—from 25.3% to 63.6% of students entering law schools in each jurisdiction.

If the ABA is serious about increasing the diversity of the legal profession, especially for Black/African Americans, it needs the historically Black law schools.  ABA accreditation, and Bar passage concerns has already adversely affected Black/African American enrollment in these schools.  Raising the minimum Bar passage rate requirements would only accelerate that trend.  But more on that later.

Posted by Gary Rosin

ABA Revisiting Minimum Bar Passage Standards for Law Schools

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

There’s a lot of discussion about proposals before the Standards Review Committee of the ABA Section on Legal Education to make use of the LSAT optional, or to change the requirements as to tenure (see, e.g., Masters Forum:  Legal Education over at the Glom). 

In The Standards Review Committee’s Comprehensive Review of Accreditation Policy Moves Forward (Syllabus,Winter 2011), Dean Donald J. Polden (Santa Clara), Chair of the Standards Review Committee, outlines the agenda of that committee’s upcoming meeting on April 2 & 3, 2011.  The last item Polden lists is:

Reconsidering the (relatively new) policy concerning minimum or threshold bar passage rates and addressing the perception that the thresholds established by the policy are too low.

(Emphasis added).  The committee has now posted a Report of Subcommittee on Bar Passage that proposes to amend Interpretation 301-6 of Standard 301(a).  Standard 301(a) provides:

A law school shall maintain an educational program that prepares its students for admission to the bar, and effective and responsible participation in the legal profession.

Interpretation 301-6 provides that a law school must meet minimum Bar-passage requirements to comply with Standard 301(a).  A school can meet the requirements based on either

  • overall first-time Bar passage rates no more than 15 percentage points below the blended average Bar passage rate for persons who graduated from ABA-accredited law schools, or
  • overall ultimate Bar passage rates (over several attempts) of at least 75%.

The Subcommittee on Bar Passage proposes to raise the minimum Bar-passage requirements to (i) no more than 10% below the average (first-time) or (ii) at least 80% (ultimate).  For a provisionally-accredited school seeking full approval, the subcommittee proposes a version of the current 15% below (first-time) or 75% (ultimate) minimums. 

When Interpretation 301-6 was originally proposed and adopted, it was widely criticized, including my own Benchmarking the Bar:  No Unity in Difference Scores (differences from state averages do not eliminate effect of differences in minimum passing scores) and Reports and Comments on Proposed ABA Interpretation 301-6.  In many ways, the sub-committee’s current proposal goes back to standards that were rejected in the initial adoption.  I’ll add more later.

posted by Gary Rosin


New Law School for Delaware?

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

In Does Delaware Need Another Law School?  Answer:  No!, Francis G.X. Pileggi argues that the University of Delaware (UD) ought not open a law school.  According to a Letter from the President, In December 2010, the UD Board of Trustees authorized a “feasibility study and business plan” for a law school at its Newark campus.  Why does UD need a law school?  Well, not because Delaware has no public law school.  Rather, UD’s strategic plan calls for one.  As the UD president put it in his letter:

No matter what group of universities UD uses for comparison purposes, we stand out as one of the few without a professional degree program in law or medicine.

* * *

To achieve parity with the nation’s leading higher education institutions, one of the most impactful investments we can make is in the founding of a law school. * * * [T]he establishment of a law school has the potential to support UD’s growing prominence and move us into the next rank of American higher education.

Perhaps the feasibility study will conclude that we do not need more law schools (see Do We Need More Law Schools?), in part because the number of applicants to ABA-approved law schools peaked in 2004 (see Flat Demand and More Law Schools).  

One might hope that a public law school would be cheaper and allow students a path to a JD with lower debt loads (see Law School Debt Loads).  But, given the state of the economy and public attitudes towards higher taxes, state funding of higher education keeps getting cut.  As a result, public universities are increasingly being privatized–forced to rely primarily on (increasing) tuition.

For other perspectives, see Professors Steve Bainbridge  and Larry Ribstein.

So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

 Many law students enter law school with dreams of getting a job with one of the major law firms, but what are their chances of doing that?  The NALP Salary Distribution, Curve for the Class of 2009 suggests that about 25% of reported salaries fell in the $160,000 range.  But only 19,513 members of that class reported salaries.  Using data from the 2011 edition of the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools (online version), those law schools granted 43,859 JDs in 2008-2009 academic year.  The 2009 Salary Distribution Curve included information on only about 44% of the members of the Class of 2009.  To what extent is there a selection bias in the NALP survey?  To what extent are graduates who get jobs with big law firms and high salaries disproportionately likely to report their salaries?

There is increasing evidence that there is a large selection bias in the NALP salary surveys.  First, as I discussed in The Market for J.D.s, the percentage of recent graduates employed varies widely  among the law school, but generally falls as the median LSAT of a law school falls. Second, the recent report on Go-To Law Schools suggest that there may be a lot. As I discussed in Go To Law, that report lists the top 50 law schools from which the National Law Journal top 250 law firms drew first-year associates in the 2010 hiring season.  According to that report, in 2009, the 50 Go-To law schools placed 30.3% of the Class of 2009 with NLJ-250 law firms, or about 4239 graduates (using the numbers for the Class of 2010), as compared to 4,878 persons (25% of the 19,513 persons included in NALP 2009 survey).

Second, if the sample included in the NALP 2009 survey represented the distribution of salaries for all 43,859 persons getting JDs from ABA-approved law schools in 2009, then about 10,965 persons in that class would have big-firm level salaries.  Taking out the 4,239 graduates of the Go-To law schools, 6,726 of the 29,870 graduates of the remaining ABA-approved law schools, or about 22.5%, would have received jobs with big law firms.  Yet the 5oth-ranked Go-To law school sent only 13.2% of its class to the NLJ-250 law firms in 2009 (10.57% in 2010).

Admittedly, these are back-of-the-envelope calculations.  I don’t know the size of the 2009 classes of the 2009 Go-To law schools, so I’ve used the size of the 2010 classes.  Most glaringly, different law schools were included in the top 50 in 2009 than were included in 2010.  Also, I don’t know whether the proportion of graduates of Go-To law schools who got jobs with the NLJ-250 law firms that responded to the NALP salary survey was higher–or lower–than students who did not get jobs with the NLJ-250.  That, of course is the point of those, including the ABA’s Young Lawyer’s Division (see Truth in Law School Education), who are calling for greater transparency in reporting job and salary information.

Go To Law

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

The National Law Journal Just released their annual Go-To Law Schools Report on hiring at firms in the NLJ 250 during 2010.  The report the top 50 law schools, based on success in placing class of 2010 graduates in NLJ 250 firms.  Two thing jumped out at me.  First, big-firm placement rates dropped off quickly from the top school, University of Chicago Law School, with 58.97% of its class of 2010,  to the 50th-ranked school, Washington and Lee University Law School, with 10.85%.  Second, two schools outside the top-50 law schools in the 2010 US News rankings, but located in or near major metropolitan areas, landed in the top 50 in the Go-To rankings:  Rutgers School of Law–Newark (Tier 2) and Howard University School of Law (Tier 3), which ranked 49th and 31st, respectively.

posted by Gary Rosin

Truth in Law School Education: ABA Young Lawyers Division

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

In earlier posts, The Market for J.D.s and Law School Debt Loads, I talked about the bi-modal distribution of starting salaries for recent law graduates, and the problem of increasing student debt-loads.  Over the last year, there have been increasing calls for greater transparency in law school reporting of the types of  jobs, and salaries, of recent graduates.  At its meeting on Saturday, February 12, 2011, the Young Lawyer’s Division (YLD) of the ABA adopted a resolution throwing the YLD’s support behind the Truth in Law School Education resolution.  The introductory paragraph of the attached Report says it all: 

It is incumbent upon the legal profession and law schools to provide each and every potential and current law student with information that will accurately reflect the employment and financial realities that they will face upon graduation from law school. The American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (“ABA YLD”), as “the home for young lawyers,” believes that the Truth in Law School Education (“TILSE”) resolution is the first step towards achieving that goal. The ABA YLD strongly believes that there is a disconnect between law students’ perception of their employment prospects upon completion of their law school education and the reality of what law students will realistically achieve. Those entering our profession should have an accurate understanding of the employment opportunities and salaries available to recent law school graduates. There is a greater need for publicly-available, accessible facts for prospective law school students, so that these individuals are able to make a more informed decision regarding their future careers.

For more information,  read Karen Sloan’s National Law Journal article, available on on February 15, 2011.

Hat tip, Tax Prof.

posted by Gary Rosin