5 Law School Failures of 2017

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 25, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Not to sound like Captain Obvious, but it's been a bad year for law schools.

After years of declining enrollments, it appears legal education hit bottom in 2017. The cumulative effects washed ashore when barely a third of law students crawled past the bar exam in one state.

So let old acquaintance be forgot as we wring out the worst of a miserable law school year:

1. Which State Has the Worst Bar Pass Rate?

As a kid, it was hard enough learning how to spell Mississippi without that song in your head. Apparently, the bar exam was also too tough for many law students.

Reporting a 36 percent bar pass rate in the spring, it was just wrong. Actually, that would be 64 percent wrong.

2. Whittier Law School Is Closing After Years of Declining Enrollments

Whittier became the first ABA-accredited law school to bite the dust. It was really sad because, among other reasons, other law schools should have closed sooner.

But the for-profit trilogy of InfiLaw schools was about to unfold.

3. Charlotte School of Law Is Expiring

The Atlantic had called it years earlier: the "law school scam." Charlotte had been on the ropes for a while, but the end drew near as the ABA suspended its accreditation and the Department of Education withheld student loans.

Good for the students who got suckered into deep debt by for-profit law schools; bad for law schools that were already wilting in the public spotlight.

4. Valparaiso Law School Suspends Admissions

The Indiana's Valparaiso law school became the second ABA school to suspend admissions this year. The school tried to stave off a financial crisis with layoffs last year, but it didn't work.

Students there are running out of options because Indiana Tech Law School closed last year with the worst bar pass rate in the state.

5. One Law School Drags Down Statewide Bar Pass Rate

Charleston Law School turned in a 44 percent pass rate in the summer, but it pulled down the state average to 68 percent. The dean blamed it partly on a change in the exam; South Carolina switched to the Uniform Bar Exam.

"It's not a bad skill set to test; it's just very different from the way bar exams have been in the past," Abrams said.

It's all connected -- law school closures, lower bar pass rates, declining standards. Perhaps it's natural selection at work, as a sputtering economy has pushed some things the way of the dinosaur.

Let's hope there are no educational hangovers in 2018.

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