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CEO DATELINE - Bar association grapples with law school diversity

Feb. 4, 2019
By William Ehart

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The American Bar Association House of Delegates overwhelmingly rejected a resolution to tighten accreditation standards for law schools based on bar passage rates, Bloomberg Law reported. 

Critics said the measure would disadvantage minority students and law schools with substantial diversity of student population. Proponents said many minority students are ill-prepared for law school and have high bar exam failure rates, saddling them with heavy debts they can’t pay off by working as lawyers.

The ABA body voted 88 to 334 against the proposal late last month at its Midyear Meeting in Las Vegas. The measure also was rejected in 2017.

The current standard enables law schools to take advantage of students, because the schools are not held responsible for failing to prepare students to enter the profession, Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, told Bloomberg Law. 

Thirty-one schools had a first-time bar passage rate of less than 60 percent in 2017 and they’re doing more harm than good, he said. 

Ten months after graduation, these schools had an average unemployment rate of 21.4 percent, he said. The graduates of these schools are more likely to be diverse than the national average; the schools have higher tuition than the national average; and the graduates tend to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, McEntee said.