ABA Punishes Law Schools for Low Bar Pass Rates

By William Vogeler, Esq. on November 22, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's bad enough failing the bar exam, but when your law school fails bar association standards, that's just disheartening.

The American Bar Association has now sanctioned three law schools for not preparing students to succeed in school and pass the bar exam. Basically, the schools got a "D" or an "F" on their bar pass percentage rates.

Bad Grades = Possible Lost Credentials

In more specific terms, the ABA penalized each school for not having "sound admissions policies and procedures" and for admitting applicants who may not be "capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar."

The association called out Ave Maria School of Law in Florida, Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana, and Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina. Valparaiso was warned and Ave Maria and Charlotte were placed on probation with the possibility of losing their accreditation.

What's Going on in Florida?

Ave Maria, which the ABA challenged to improve its admission policies and practices by September 2016, suffered a 66.7% bar pass rate in July 2016. The Florida statewide average was 68.2%.

The school has also been under scrutiny by the U.S. Dept. of Education for cash management issues. If the school does not show financial responsibility, the school will have to "front student loan payments before receiving a reimbursement from the federal government."

Limbo Low Bar Results

Valparaiso had the ignominy of the lowest bar pass rates among the sanctioned schools with 45.24%. According to the school, the statewide average was 65.9%

Charlotte's Dean Jay Conison said he did not expect the school to be placed on probation. "Over the past couple of years we've been doing a lot to dramatically improve our admissions, bar prep and academic support," he said.

In recent years, the ABA has been accused on accrediting too many law schools. This comes at a time when the legal market isn't exactly in need of an army of underqualified attorneys. Responding to the criticism, the ABA is apparently upholding its promise to tighten bar passage standards for law schools.

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