Someone Needs to Put Law Schools Out of Their Misery

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 04, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's a tough time to be a law school. Your grads are failing the bar at incredibly high rates. The smart kids are all going to grad school to be coders, not lawyers. Grads are indebted, unhappy, and unemployed. Even The New York Times has started calling some law schools scams. Scams.

Will anyone do what's necessary and start putting some law schools out of their misery?

A Sad Year for Law Grads

Hiring in the legal industry is starting to level out after years of decline, but many recent law grads won't get to benefit from it. Why? They can't pass the bar. The July 2015 bar exam pass rates have been pretty much a disaster. Mississippi's pass rate dropped 27 percent and New Mexico dropped 12 percent. (Neither state's bar exam is considered to be particularly difficult.) New York saw the lowest amount of test takers in almost a decade and the lowest pass rate in at least 35 years.

As bar passage rates have crashed, the cost of law school has continued to rise, increasing 260 percent over the past 30 years, according to Law School Transparency. Many law school graduates are saddled with six figures of non-dischargeable student debt, whether they can ever use their J.D. or not.

It's Worse at the Bottom of the Barrel

While few Harvard Law grads are starving, the situation is particularly grim among lower-ranked schools. One law school, Arizona Summit Law School, offered its students a bar deferral stipend of $10,000 to not take the bar. (Presumably, to help protect the school's overall bar passage numbers.) They managed to pull only a 30.6 percent first-time passage rate in 2015.

There are plenty of schools which accept students unlikely to pass the bar and do not properly prepare their students for the bar while happily charging $45,000 a year in tuition. Two weeks ago, The New York Times called out one school in particular: Florida Coastal School of Law. Few Florida Coastal grads pass the bar. The average grad leaves with over $162,000 in debt. "If this sounds like a scam, that's because it is," the Times wrote.

Is There Any Way Out?

What's to be done? Some schools have started to shrink their classes in order to maintain a selective student body. Some may have to close their doors altogether. The worst offenders, those who graduate hundreds of unprepared, indebted J.D.s, should lose their accreditation altogether. And, some argue, the federal government needs to pull back on graduate student loans. When there's an endless supply of federal loan money, law schools have little incentive to lower prices, shrink their class sizes, or turn underprepared students away.

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