Saturday, June 25, 2016

SALT law professor organization tries to derail important reform on minimum bar passage outcomes


"We write on behalf of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT)" are words that should be preceded by a trigger warningCaution: America’s leading oh-so-progressive organization of wealthy law professors is about to violate your sense of personal decency by explaining that the economic interests of its members are identical to the access to justice needs of the marginalized and downtrodden.

The ABA recently circulated an unusually promising draft revision to its standard on bar passage rates (ABA Standard 316). If adopted, the revised Standard will impose a requirement that 75% of a law school’s graduates who sit for a bar exam must pass the exam within two years. The proposed revision would eliminate multiple alternate and less burdensome ways of establishing compliance. Perhaps as significantly, the revision eliminates the eight ways a law school can demonstrate good cause for its lack of compliance, which currently include the following rule-devouring catch-all: "Other factors, consistent with a law school’s demonstrated and sustained mission, which the school considers relevant in explaining its deficient bar passage results."

There are 709 words in existing ABA Standard 316, of which 398 are devoted to setting forth the good cause excuses. By contrast, the draft revision of Standard 316 is a model of beautiful clarity at 34 words. Well, perhaps not so beautiful if you are a law professor at a substandard school, like many of the law professors in the SALT organization.  

The co-presidents of SALT, Prof. Sara Rankin of Seattle Law and Prof. Denise Roy of Mitchell-Hamline, recently submitted a four-page long comment to the ABA expressing numerous "concerns" and "unanswered questions" (aka objections) as to the ABA proposal, and urging retention of all the "good cause" excuses for noncompliance in the event that the revised standard is adopted. Some excerpts from SALT’s letter:

"We are concerned as well, about the impact the proposed standard may have on law schools’ willingness to provide opportunities to students who perform less well on standardized tests such as the LSAT. . . . If the new standard is more difficult for schools to satisfy, or if schools worry that it will be more difficult to satisfy given declining bar passage rates, will schools rely even more heavily on LSAT scores in their admissions process? What impact will this have on the admission of students from diverse, economically disadvantaged, and non-traditional backgrounds? What impact will this proposed change have on the overall diversity of the bench and bar? These are important questions to address before making this change."
* * *  
"Will this new standard, which focuses on a 75% bar exam pass rate, have consequences with respect to what law schools teach and how they assess? . . . Will a strict 75% pass rate cause schools to focus on traditional outcomes tested by the bar exam, rather than to think expansively about learning outcomes related to skills development, access to justice, and cultural competence?"
 * * * 
"Whatever the Council decides with respect to the standard itself, we urge the retention of the list of factors that may be taken into account as "good cause" for extending the period the law school has to demonstrate compliance with the standard. . . . The lengthy list of factors in the current standard contains thoughtful and helpful suggestions for considering the complex reasons why a law school may be failing to meet the standard but nonetheless be on a path to compliance.
I more or less share SALT’s left-wing political orientation, and so am especially exasperated by the group's flair for making its crassly self-interested lobbying sound like progressive advocacy.

Are these pedagogues of the oppressed so cocooned in self-righteous obliviousness that they do not realize that staggering law school debt loads make bar passage a far greater imperative than mastering legal academia's jargon-drenched version of "cultural competence," or other such expansive learning outcomes, even for the most social justice-oriented law students? 

Are these academic champions of equality simply uninformed that their weaker-credentialed "diverse, economically disadvantaged, and non-traditional" students are massively subsidizing the tuitions of their more privileged students, an allocation of burdens  regressive enough to make the ghosts of Reagan and Thatcher rise up and dance a foxtrot to the tune of "Ain't We Got Fun"? 

The growing segment of law grads who cannot pass the bar exam will provide zero diversity to the legal profession, though I fear plenty to unemployment lines and mental health facilities. 

SALT is critical of the destructive social consequences of market economics, and that is where they and I share immense common ground. I am sure that SALT would be outraged if, for instance, firearms manufacturers and dealers lobbied against a proposed regulation to make it more difficult for at-risk individuals to obtain their dangerous product. Or if a polluter asserted its self-evident good faith as justification for failure to comply with environmental laws. Or if a tobacco corporation created a marketing or "pipeline" program to generate future demand for its product among schoolchildren. Or if a sweatshop owner publicly fretted that workplace safety rules could hinder his or her ability to provide opportunities. Or if a subprime mortgage lender, circa 2006, proudly touted the diversity of its customers.

Along with SALT, my fist is raised in solidarity with the activists who protest the harmful activities and inadequate regulation of private industry. Unlike SALT, however, my fist is not lowered when attention turns to the lucrative nonprofit law school industry. I do not care how frequently or sincerely law faculty blab about justice or its trendy seven-syllable synonym "intersectionality"-- law schools with weak employment and bar passage rates are exploiting the people they claim to serve. Whatever their rhetorical commitments to the public interest, law schools are self-interested entities that enrich their managerial class while creating vast negative externalities, just like corporate predators.

Consumer disclosure is not enough to end the scam. Rigorous minimum outcome standards, such as Revised ABA Standard 316, must be imposed and schools that fail to meet them should flunk out of accreditation.  

20 comments:

  1. "What impact will this have on the admission of students from diverse, economically disadvantaged, and non-traditional backgrounds? What impact will this proposed change have on the overall diversity of the bench and bar?"

    The bar, in each state not Wisconsin, is determined by who passes the bar exam, and the bench almost always follows suit and requires same. So this proposal will have absolutely no effect on the diversity of the bench and bar unless law schools decide to disproportionately discriminate against bar-capable minorities in their admission processes. They're essentially using anticipated racism by their own organizations as a defense against neutral regulation that they don't otherwise like.

    As an aside, if past admissions practices hold true, the real victims (naive lucky ones) of such a policy would be marginal white candidates with low LSATs. Any law school needing to cut its bar failure risks isn't going to start with its minority population, which it has no problem saddling with inflated tuition debts.

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  2. So....if these law schools are concerned that the new standard would "force" them to look at LSAT scores when admitting students for fear they may not meet the new standard, isn't that an admission that LSAT scores and bar passage rates are related? How many of these SALT professors are employees of schools who adopted open admission policies in recent years and then in turn blamed the bar exam when their graduates with sub-par LSATs were unable to pass it?

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  3. Oh, wake the hell up. You "share" their left-wing politics, but that just makes you more exasperated at their blatant predatory behavior, and then take a swipe at Reagan and Thatcher? It's called the Regressive Left; anti-capitalist, anti-free speech, anti-race reconciliation, anti-progress, all in the name of social justice for past transgressions. It is purely a coincidence that this "social justice" involves them getting economic support without having to work, of course, and it doesn't matter that their positions would increase poverty and suffering, because...... social justice! Some animals are always more equal than others, don't be a sappy sentimental fool.

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    1. "Social Justice" is crap, but the scam--government enabling of loan industry, education business, both of which lobby the government for the hand-outs, sound perfect free market to me=he who owns the gold makes the rules.

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    2. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingJune 28, 2016 at 12:54 PM

      I think what you are saying is that MONETIZING "social justice" and paying back student loans, etc is crap. However, anytime a criminal defense attorney stands up at the bench and defends an ordinary American's rights is the epitome of social justice. Earning a decent income from it is another thing when there are 1.8 million lawyers and growing.

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  4. We need lawyers for under-served communities. However, under-served communities are not served by incompetent lawyers.

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    1. This. Plus, underserved communities are not served by indebted JD's who can't pass the bar.

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    2. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingJune 28, 2016 at 12:57 PM

      Underserved communities have been represented for years and years. It is called a neighborhood store front law practice. It is called solo practice. The problem is that everybody and anybody is now going into it for the immediate cash flow and lack of gub'mint jobs and firm jobs. There is almost a perverse dis-incentive to not represent the underserved.

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  5. Here's a thought. How about devoting more time to teaching rather than writing so many worthless law review articles. Give students individual attention. Use formative assessment. Teach students things they need to know rather than marxist garbage. Be a real teacher who helps students, not a limousine liberal.

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    1. True. Stop pretending that anyone cares what professors from marginal schools like Seattle or Mitchell-Hamline really think. And stop pretending that publishing in a student run journal is in anyway a rigorous or sophisticated vetting process. You are only fooling yourselves.

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  6. Excellent comment, Dybbuk123. The 'SALT' letter reminds me of a comment I saw a little while back by a law professor who talked about how, with less students applying to law school now (due to high tuition prices and a reduction in employment outcomes), that would mean that the students applying now are more serious about the law and becoming a lawyer because they are still applying.

    Given that fewer students are applying because they don't want to incur the debt that comes from the ever-increasing rise in tuition, I accused her of conflating having the money to attend law school (or not) with having more (or less) passion for the law. I couldn't believe that she would equate someone coming from a poorer background and therefor not able to take out the loans to pay for law school knowing that they wouldn't be able to pay them back as less passionate about the law.

    I, too, share a left-leaning idealogy, but I'm starting to think that the left is leaving behind the true working class, as it seems to be increasingly made up of people from ivy-league colleges who never experienced a day of poverty in their lives but like to expound about how they imagine such a life to be like. We need more diversity in liberal politics. Recently I was applying for a job with a non-profit. I realized I didn't have a chance when I looked at all the profiles of the attorneys that worked there and everyone single one of them came from either Harvard, Yale, or another ivy-league. (This was just an average, non-profit.) The left increasingly leaves out the people it is supposed to stand for and serve, to its detriment. If we continue to exclude these very important voices, all we have left is a bunch of law profs bloviating about what the legal system needs - suggestions, which coincidentally, happen to benefit their $100K salaries.

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    1. Left-wing, right-wing, it doesn't matter. It's all about the money. Honestly, I feel sorry for the scammers. "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mark 8:36

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    2. Feel sorrier for their scammed victims.

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    3. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingJune 28, 2016 at 7:55 AM

      When George Bush nominated Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, the elite left was howling that she was from a lower ranked law school. Not from a T-20. One Prawf in Chicago penned an OP ED piece questioning the rigors of her academic record. I recall being deeply offended by that OP ED piece because I attended a school similar to Ms. Myers. Highly ranked but not an Ivy or NU. Whenever I can, I take a pot shot at these Prawfs at the Faculty Lounge Blog and tell prospective law students not to attend.

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  7. This post is brilliant.
    But sadly, the scammers will never stop, as they only want to serve widows and orphans; the cushy jobs and fat pay are just side benefits.

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    1. If law professors actually cared about serving the marginalized and dispossessed, they would forget about writing their worthless law review articles, actually pass the bar in the state where they teach, and go work for free at a legal aid clinic. And they could donate their summer research scam money to the legal clinic

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    2. ROTFL!!

      Like this is ever gonna happen!!!! LOL!!

      Perfectly put.

      A-hole law prawfs getting off their pampered fat asses to (gasp!) do WORK?!??

      Work is for the Lumpenproles Baby.. The very idea is insulting and repugnant to their persons.

      Oh but then you have judges - politicians in black robes - like Lip Man and Soto-May-yo-NAISE (remember that from "A Soldier and a Gentleman? Old movie, I know.. "Mayo-NAISE!!"...) calling for mandatory pro bono. Such a thing would only further erode earnings potential for law as attorneys needing to fulfill such a mandatory requirement would now be forced - just like in a cheap porno film, lolz! - to take on cases.

      It's always an Easy Job - when somebody else does it..

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    3. Oh..and.. Sorry, it's "An Officer and a Gentleman" with what's-his-name as Mayo and the other black guy as Sgt. Something/What's his name??

      Here:

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084434/

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    4. And, as we've seen before, they would rather shut down their own legal clinics than cut their own big fat salaries...
      http://thirdtierreality.blogspot.com/2014/09/great-news-northwestern-school-of-law.html
      (H/T Nando, for writing and posting this in the first place)

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  8. I am fortunate enough to practice in a jurisdiction where the bench and bar come in all stripes; is very diverse. All graduated from ranked law schools and would be insulted by these types of questions. They are demeaning to the folks that busted their butts to become lawyers and judges. The Prawfs asking these questions are not practicing attorneys and likely not even licensed to practice...

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