Monday, September 28, 2015

Do North Carolina's most recent bar passage results shed any light on declining pass rates nationally?

                                            (From Charlotte Law School's "official blog")

Last year, OTLSS published a two-post series by a former Charlotte Law School faculty member detailing the mistreatment of students and faculty by the school's mercenary InfiLaw owners. The guest poster stated that "Charlotte Law feeds on students who were not accepted into any other law schools." The poster added that, "Most of the students who scored at the bottom of the admitted pool lack basic reading and writing skills, and so are required to take a pre-1L program to make them able to participate in actual classes." This grim account of the need to spoon-feed academically disinclined law students finds strange corroboration in Charlotte Dean Jay Conison's alleged email blaming the laziness of Charlotte law students for their recent appalling bar exam results.

And, as noted, the poster's observations were published last year, comparative glory days for Charlotte, when it could still almost muster a 60% bar passage rate. On the most recent North Carolina exam (July, 2015), Charlotte’s passage rate sunk below 50%-- to 47.1% to be exact, which is a trifling 22.3% below the State average.  To be fair, the priceless graphic at the top of this post establishes that there is also under-reported good news out of Charlotte. I mean, why focus on Charlotte’s lousy overall bar passage rate when we could as easily celebrate the success of a small elite subsection of its bar-takers? 

Law school apologists have been thrashing around amusingly for some plausible explanation for tanking bar passage rates other than the unsayable one, the decline in academic quality of law school matriculates. Last year’s designated culprit was a software glitch. This year, we can blame the addition of civil procedure to MBE-tested subjects.

Some of these law school apologists have further explained that declining bar passage rates may not be due to a mere unrelated succession of changes or flukes. Rather, there may be a sinister plan by the testmasters at the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) to sabotage passage rates. For instance, University of Mississippi lawprof and recently-resigned Dean I. Richard Gershon has asserted that NCBE is pursuing an agenda of reducing the number of entrants to the legal profession by "purposely gaming the MBE." Likewise, but in even more inflammatory tones, Brooklyn blowhard Nicholas Allard has questioned the integrity and fairness of the bar exam itself, as well as the motives of NCBE Chief Erica Moeser. Richly, this former top D.C. corporate lobbyist for Patton Boggs, author of a scholarly masterpiece entitled "Lobbying is an Honorable Profession," and self-described "lobbyist for Brooklyn Law School" (See video interview at 11:05-11:08) has accused the NCBE of "acting. . . like a self-interested lobbying group." Oh, and blogging lawprof "BDG" has significantly elevated the debate by claiming to be a space alien doing the bidding of the Warsaw Pact. ("It could be true that scores were lower because the test-takers were not as able, but then I could also be a Martian or a Soviet spy").

I am wondering if the chart below offers some slight reason to impute a correlation between student academic credentials and bar passage. Just as a fun exercise, have a look at the chart and then rank the North Carolina law schools in order, one through seven, according to bar passage rate on the July 2015 exam. Then rank those same North Carolina law schools in order, one through seven, according to their 25th percentile LSAT score for 2012 (i.e., the year that most of the 2015 bar exam takers were admitted to law school). Lists look pretty similar, no? And by similar, I mean identical.

I grant that correlation is not proof of causation. It is logically possible that the reason bar passage rates are declining is entirely unrelated to declining student quality. And yet I do believe that the correlation provides grounds for suspicion in light of simple common sense. Imagine a formerly prestigious and tidy room where conditions are rapidly deteriorating. The cause of the room's ongoing destruction may be entirely unrelated to the fact that the room just happens to be occupied by a rampaging elephant named "Declining Standards" and by its inseparable companions, an enormous grunting pig named "Greed," and a braying jackass named "Excuses." But still, common sense provides basis to doubt the outraged protestations and denials of the elephant, even if the agitated beast is a former Rhodes scholar.

Bar Passage Rate, July ’15
25th percentile LSAT, 2012
UNC-Chapel Hill
Wake Forest
North Carolina Central



  1. While admission standards have been in decline for years, the bottom really fell out with the class that entered in the fall of 2014. Wait until those geniuses sit for the bar exam. Also, while Charlotte’s bar numbers are appalling, Duke - which is supposedly an elite school - doesn’t have anything to brag about either (although maybe that number is skewed because so few Duke grads sit for the NC bar exam).

    1. Duke is the best law school in North Carolina—and indeed in the entire southern half of the US, with the possible exception of the U of Virginia. But it's still a second-tier institution. Consider it only at half price or less.

      Incidentally, there are only three or four law schools in the southern half of the US that a person who doesn't come from big money should even consider attending: Duke, Virginia, Vanderbilt, maybe Georgetown. That's it. Not UCLA. Not Texas (which in recent years has been admitting people with LSAT scores in the 120s). And don't ask, even in jest, about Charlotte, Charleston, or Elon.

    2. Actually, Stanford and Berkeley are also in the southern half of the United States, and both of them are further south than Georgetown. Both of them are worth attending.

    3. Ah, pedantic geography quibbles...

      I'm filing my dissent from what OldGuy wrote. I would recommend going to a relatively well-positioned state flagship (e.g., Alabama, Georgia, New Mexico, Nevada, Arkansas-Fayetteville) way before telling anyone to go to Vanderbilt or Georgetown. Vanderbilt in particular seems like a classic trap school in 2015.

    4. I never thought of school regions in terms of southern half or northern half. To me, Stanford, Berkeley, and UCLA are west coast schools. Vandy, UVA, Duke, and Texas are southern schools. I never thought of Georgetown as a southern school. To me, its an eastern school, like U Penn or NYU.

    5. Some of those trashy state schools are only worth attending at a 100% discount. Not only that, but attending Arkansas-Fayetteville would be a life-ruining decision even at zero tuition, since there's another law school in Little Rock where most of the internships and interviews are.

      I can't believe you'd give such reckless advice on a blog that's already exposed the law school scam. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    6. My recommendation is that if you really want to go to law school that you apply first to Yale. If you are so dead set on being a lawyer and your LSAT score and GPA is on the weak side for Yale than you can apply to Harvard as a safety school.

      Note that if you go to law school you will still be in hock six figures unless your ancestors are rich* and pay your way for you. You will still have a miserable time working for a sadistic law partner at a job you can't quit because you are so indebted.

      Of course if your ancestors are rich, and also connected, there are a few other choices in law schools for you. As long as the place is not a running joke in the industry it's an option.

    7. "I can't believe you'd give such reckless advice on a blog that's already exposed the law school scam. You should be ashamed of yourself."

      I did not tell anyone to go to law school. I merely said that relatively, such a strategy is a better bet than Vanderbilt and Georgetown. And I'll stand by that.

    8. I was referring to the cultural, not the geographic, southern half of the US. San Francisco has more in common with Seattle than with Los Angeles. And some places well to the north of the Mason–Dixon Line are effectively southern. Not for nothing is Muncie, Indiana, known as Muntucky.

    9. Also, I never advised anyone to attend Vanderbilt or Georgetown. I would in fact advise people to steer clear of both. What I said is that those are among the few that anyone should even consider attending.

      Vanderbilt and Georgetown might be OK for those of aristocratic pedigree. Those of humbler birth should stay away.

      For that matter, think hard before accepting an offer from Harvard or Yale.

    10. "...the bottom really fell out with the class that entered in the fall of 2014."

      And, contrary to Brian Leiter's lies, nothing has changed. Things have simply failed to get any worse this year.

  2. Also interesting that similar new bottom tier school Elon is doing . . well if not great at least respectable. Even NC Central a HBCU with the same 25th percentile LSATs does almost 20% on the bar exam. So not only is Charlotte doing bad on the exam it is doing significantly worse than similarly ranked schools and students. Special kind of wonderful there.

  3. Dear god, why does NC have 7 law schools?

    1. To justify the opening of Indiana Tech, "only" the fifth in its state.

    2. When charlotte was being debated it was argued that the city of charlotte needed a law school since it was the largest city in the country without a law school. How's that for reaching for justification? Now that charlotte has it's law school I wonder what city holds the dubious distinction of being the largest city without a law school.

    3. The Riverside–San Bernardino metro area, apparently.

      But there's a law school in tiny South Royalton, Vermont, an unincorporated hamlet of 700 people whose nearest grocery store is half an hour away by car (in Lebanon, New Hampshire). Surely that proves that there should be a law school on every goddamn street corner from Nome to Key West.

    4. But the University of Laverne and Shirley runs a scam, or law school if you prefer, in Ontario, California, which is or was part of the Riverside metro area.


    5. Someone did a blog post about "underserved" metropolitan areas without law schools. It may have been on the LSTC blog.

    6. Law School Truth Center
      Saturday, March 1, 2014

      "Top Ten Places in Need of Law School"

    7. I stand corrected. La Verne ("And we'll scam you our way, yes, our way; make all our dreams come true") provisionally got ABA accreditation back, possibly by requiring every student to wear a sweater with a script L embroidered on it. So, yes, the Riverside area does have an ABA-accredited law school, at least for now. More's the pity.

  4. This is clearly a Race to the Bottom, and yet sadly, we're nowhere near bottoming out. The free fall continues, but it's still along way to the bottom. And nowhere to go, but down.

    It will only be when the bar exam is offered once every 3 years, when there are 1/3 the number of law schools as exist now, and when there have been several years where the total of number law school grads hovers at 5,000, can it truly be said that we are seeing the beginning of the end.

    Having open admissions and all-can-play rules sounds like fun, but it ends up being misery for all concerned. Even those who would otherwise excel in law. The exclusiveness should have been performed upfront.

    1. Impose a minimum LSAT score, such as 160, for admissions. Most law schools would be gone within a year.

  5. Whatever happened to Charlotte the dog? I really liked Charlotte the dog.

  6. And over the door to Dean Jay "Wilbur" Conison's office, Charlotte spun a web that read "SOME PIG".

  7. But these cockroaches and pigs are merely trying to open up the doors of this "profession" to those from "historically under-represented groups"!

    Never mind that even armed with a TTT law degree, MOST of these minority grads will not be hired by law firms. But at least they have a few letters behind their name, and all it cost them was 3 years of their lives and an additional $123,675.83 in NON-DISCHARGEABLE debt, right?!?!

    1. The sudden interest in racialized people is downright predatory and exploitative. Racialized people are being solicited solely for their borrowing capacity. It's disgusting and, yes, racist.

      Don't fall for the pale-faced scamster. Stay the hell away from law school.

  8. "98% of Charlotte's Moot Court Honor Board members passed the NC bar exam on the first try."

    To get a 98% even by rounding up they have to have at least 40-50 people on this "honor board" who took and passed the NC bar exam with only one or two failures. I'm very skeptical of that claim.

    Also, is there a 'regular' or non-honor moot court board?

    1. I was going to point that out (the minimum number is 40, with only one not passing the exam on the first attempt—assuming that every one of those students does take the exam), until I noticed that perhaps they were counting students from multiple years.

      I still think that the figure is a lie. Anyway, by trumpeting the allegedly good results of that élite group, Charlotte only tells the world that its students in general are a lousy lot.

    2. It's pathetic that they can't even produce a 100%pass rate after such a surgical dissection of the study body.

  9. Offtopic, but my alma mater recently announced a new LLM in "Social Justice". Since no graduate of this program will meet the job requirements for a job in this area (world-class elite law school, big firm experience, being named "Amal Clooney"), I imagine the school is simply trying to cover all the special snowflake bases.

    1. But an LLM in Social Justice is a good way to make yourself completely unemployable for the few jobs that are available.

      Unfortunately, many law students do not understand the risk of an LLM. An LLM disqualifies you for any jobs not in the LLM subject area since you've demonstrated a very specific interest.

    2. Lining the pockets of scamsters while saddling some dolt with the better part of $100k in non-dischargeable debt for a useless one-year degree—such is the scamsters' idea of "Social Justice".

    3. One of the few situations where recipients used to realize a benefit from an LLM degree was entry into legal academia. For example, Adam Lamparello and Tamara Piety upgraded their prestige with LLM's from NYU and Harvard, respectively. Nora Demleitner also got an LLM in international law. So it must work for everyone, right? Not a chance. And even legal academia has cut its hiring quite a bit over the last few years.

      So almost no one benefits from an LLM any more. Maybe an LLM in tax law from NYU or Georgetown, or possibly an LLM in securities regulation or financial institutions for practicing lawyers. Other than that, stay away!

    4. The LLM programs at NYU, Harvard, and the like are playgrounds for rich kids, many of them mediocre at best.

      Even a few years ago, getting an LLM was regarded as a bad idea. Specialists in tax law might get an LLM in their field, and people with foreign legal credentials might get one just to satisfy a requirement for licensure, but that was it.

      Recent years, however, have seen a veritable explosion in LLM programs. Now every Cooley has a whole slate of LLM scams, invariably in such lemming-enticing but fictitious specialties as animal rights and sports law.

  10. From Campos' current thread at Lawyers Guns n' Money

    Worth reading – Dean of Pepperdine calls bullshit on claims the Bar exam is harder, yep, candidates are indeed dumber:

  11. Two variations on the scam:

    Cooley has drastically slashed its class and faculty sizes, facing a dwindling supply of lemmings and knowing it has to maintain at least *some* admission standards to keep bar passage rates at an acceptable level.

    The Infilaw schools have continued to slash standards and continue to admit hordes of unqualified lemmings. I have to think their investors' plan is to suck up as much student loan money as possible over the next 3-5 years, then simply close or sell the schools once things get so bad (like sub 40% bar passage or so) that regulators and media start focusing attention on them and the lemmings start staying away.

    1. I'm amazed that no one in the federal government in any branch can see this massive crime being committed. We are the victims so I get why we are so privy to the details as to how bad it is, but what the scam schools are doing is blatantly evil and nothing will be done. They are essentially stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers, if not billions already. Disgusting.

    2. @3:13,

      If anyone who attended law school is still a liberal or believes in government after said attendance, he or she is seriously mentally ill or delusional.

      The purpose of the federal government is to use the poor to take money from working people, and thereafter, distribute those funds to the super rich. Additionally, the purpose of the federal government is to right regulations that crush small businesses in favor of large businesses, and otherwise minimize competition in key areas, so the rich and their progeny can maintain position in face of competition.

      This is accomplished by using the ignorance and envy of the lower classes, and permitting some extremely elite members of the lower class to arrive in the higher classes (provided said new entrants follow the program).

      The federal government isn't going to do anything about this or any other scam because that would go against its purpose. The only thing the lower classes ever had working for them, as imperfect as it was, was the free market, which destroyed members at the top who got to reckless. This is now gone and what you have is corporate fascism, aka neoliberalism.

    3. Correction above: right = write (and in actuality, pass and enforce).

    4. Damn good comment at 4:36. And thanks for the correction.

    5. "The purpose of the federal government is to use the poor to take money from working people, and thereafter, distribute those funds to the super rich."

      I read things like this and the 'liberal' in me thinks, "Surely not." But then the logical part of me - and the part that was scammed by law schools - knows that it's actually true.

      My answer to 3:13 is that the government DOES know that the higher education scam is in full swing. They know that tuition levels rising so dramatically and unjustifiably is entirely a scheme throughout higher education to milk the lower middle class and poor, and to have them mortgage their entire fucking lives for the benefit of the rich. Fifteen years ago, I'd have said that something like this can't possibly be true. But seeing it time and time again, seeing the big money interests in DC, seeing the utter failure of politicians to look out for their constituents who aren't mega-rich donors...the evidence is strong.

      And of course nobody in government wants to change this. They've finally found the perfect way to literally tax the fuck out of hard-working young Americans for a very long time. Make it look like the kids of today can have a wonderful future if only they attend the best schools (and the most expensive schools), and the kids sign up for massive undischargeable loans and dive right in. And only too late do they realize it's all part of a massive scam to get them on the hook for the next thirty years.

      Fuck America. What a dogshit of a country it's turned into.

      I never thought I'd be someone who purveys "government is a massive scam" conspiracy theories, but fuck it guys, this is no conspiracy theory. This is actually happening. And anyone who can't see it or who doesn't believe it is either a rich person milking (directly or indirectly) the dupes, or a future dupe.

  12. If you run a regression on the above numbers, you get a statistically significant model,

    Bar Passage rate = -1.245 + (.013 x 25th percentile LSAT)

    This means that every 1 unit decline the 25th percentile LSAT is associated with a decline in the bar passage rate equal to 1.3%.

    1. Don't you know that only law professors are allowed to run regressions?

    2. Of course the typical law prof things to "run a regression" has something to do with exercise.

    3. Rare is the law professor who even knows what a regression is.

    4. Thanks to Anon at 5:09 for finding that equation.

      I used some algebra to restate the equation in a way I found more intuitive:

      BPR = .315 + .013 (LSAT - 120) [I added 1.56 to each side]

      So at a 25th percentile LSAT of 120, as low as it gets, 31.5% of students would still pass the bar exam.

      And at a 25th percentile LSAT of 165, 90% of students would pass the bar exam.

      And at an impossible 25th percentile LSAT of 180, an equally impossible 109.5% pf students would pass the bar exam.

    5. Just to clarify the math 4:22 did (which is correct but I thought was mistaken at first):

      The formula given was "y = -1.245 + .013x." If z = x - 120, then x = z + 120 and you can rewrite the function like this:

      y = -1.245 +.013(z+120) = -1.245 + .013z + 1.56 = .315 + .013z

      Now the function is written in terms of z (points above 120) instead of x (raw LSAT). The percentages check out in the last paragraph.

      The problem here is either that the regression line needs more data at the extremes or that it's not a linear regression. I would guess the latter.