Law School Accreditor Raises Bar-Passage Standard

May 20, 2019

After years of debate and false starts, the American Bar Association's accrediting arm on Friday toughened its requirement on the rate at which a law school's graduates must pass the bar for the school to be accredited. The association's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (per the descriptions in this memorandum and Q&A) will now require that 75 percent of a school's graduates pass the bar within two years of completing the program. The 75 percent standard isn't any higher than it has been, but the new rule eliminates several exceptions that watered down the requirement significantly. The rule takes effect next spring, when law schools will have to report their rates for 2017 graduates.

The ABA's legal education section had approved the change twice previously since 2017, but each time the ABA's overall membership rejected the proposal, citing concerns from California schools that that state's bar exam is much tougher than other states', and from law schools that serve significant numbers of underrepresented minority students, which say they would be disproportionately hurt by the new rule.

Under ABA guidelines, the third approval of a rule by the legal education section cannot be overturned by the full ABA membership.

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