Saturday, August 20, 2016

Arizona Sadist Law School To Increase its Bar Passage Rate by Preventing its Students from Graduating Until They Can Pass a Mock Bar Exam

In an era of of falling bar passage rates nationwide, we should applaud the exciting news that private-equity-owned Arizona Sadist Law School or ASLS (I do not want to call the place "Summit" until it actually excels at something, or at least holds a few of its classes on a hill) is poised to dramatically increase its own bar passage rate through the inspired pedagogical strategy of not allowing some of its 3Ls to graduate. 

Beginning with the graduating (or, uh, possibly not graduating) class of 2017, students at ASLS will be required to pass a school-designed mock bar exam prior to receiving their JD. This is reminiscent, somewhat, of the so-called "baby bar" that California administers to students at unaccredited law schools. Of course, unlike at Sadist, the California baby bar is designed by the state's Committee of Bar Examiners, not by the individual schools, is initially administered at the end of the first year of legal study, and its passage rates are collected and reported. So students at these schools have clear expectations and early feedback.

In response to an inquiry from the ABA Journal, Sadistic Dean Shirley Mays pricelessly griped that her school’s bar passage rate would be 42%, or even 46%, instead of 30%, but for the fact that its best students routinely transfer to other schools. [1] For a sports analogy, imagine how delighted you would be as a diehard fan of a perennial last place team if the coach complained that the team might still be in last place, but by a lesser margin, if only its best players would stop accepting mid-season offers to play for better-performing rivals.

Mays announced the mock bar requirement in an email to its student body that was unfortunately marred by ego-soothing and ostensibly burden-sharing administrative language. ("While we are confident that our graduates have the potential to succeed. . ."; "We want you to take ownership of your success. . ."; "[A]ll of us need to make adjustments . . ."; "Warm regards").

Thus, Mays's email is only conventionally sadistic, reading as it does like a carefully-crafted layoff notice or job rejection letter or insurance rate hike. In keeping with the lofty ambitions incorporated into its very name, the school should have elevated its evil by forthrightly placing highly personalized blame and shame where it clearly belongs-- on the victims.

For instance:

Dear Unworthy Student,

Let’s talk about ingratitude and betrayal. We took you in, gave you shelter from the terrible storm of not going to law school, and invited you on a journey to the towering heights of professional success. Though your standardized test results scored your aptitude at somewhere between below average and outright mentally disabled [2], we looked at you with a holistic eye and were smitten by the heart and soul of a future legal champion and civic leader. [3] Other law schools were so horrified by your credentials that they would not accept your proffered tuition dollars, in spite of the desperate financial condition of many. But to us, you were a glittering juris diamond in the very, very rough. We had faith in your potential when nobody else would.

Yes, you made us believe in you and love you, which is why it so hurtful to belatedly realize that you have taken cruel advantage of our misplaced confidence and naive goodwill. Year after year, you broke our hearts. You passed all our classes, received our precious degree, and then went forth to humiliate us and jeopardize our accreditation by failing the bar at rates possibly unmatched by any other ABA-approved law school in the country. [4]

To wit, you have scammed us, your too-trusting faculty, administrators, and private equity investors. You have scammed us out of our reputation, which is worse than the mere loss of money ("Who steals my purse steals trash," ect.). Therefore, we have no choice but to protect ourselves from your malicious deceit by designing a last-ditch fail-safe to salvage our publicly-reported bar passage numbers.

But, as much as you have wounded us, such is our fondness and our codependency that we cannot bear the thought of losing you. Therefore, you may remain with us as our tuition-paying guest for an extra semester or maybe two or three until you have revived our shaken faith in your ability to pass a test of minimal competence. It is unlikely that we will insist that you remain with us for a sixth year. [5], [6]

Through Tears,

Your Devastated But Still Devoted Law School, Arizona Sadist.


[1] Mays: "A large percentage of our best students are courted by higher-ranked law schools after they complete their first year of law school. . . . Had these transfer students remained at our law school, our bar pass rates would be 12 percent to 16 percent higher." 

[2] ASLS's most recent entering LSAT scores were 140/143/148.  By the way, as recently as five years ago, they were 148/150/153.  A 25th percentile score then is a 75th percentile score now. 

[3] ASLS admissions webpage: "Arizona Summit Law School takes a holistic admissions approach that considers. . .  a broad range of factors that focus on a student's potential to succeed in law school." 

Mays: "We look beyond test scores by taking the time to get to know our students' ambition and work ethic as factors to grant admission. . . The new name highlights our commitment to the success of our students who come from diverse backgrounds and stages in life and provides a supportive academic environment where civic-minded leaders and community advocates are nurtured." 

[4] Ave Maria School of Law is in trouble with the ABA over its awful bar passage rates, but even Ave Maria's bar performance is not as bad as ASLS's.

[5] Mays: "Students. . . are limited to taking the mock exam while they are a student. [sic] There wouldn't likely be an instance of a 2017 graduate taking the mock exam in 2020."

[6] According to Mays's email, the bar passage rate for ASLS graduates with a sub 2.5 GPA is two percent. If the mock bar is anything like the real one, a lot of these students will never pass and give up on law school in frustration. Did you think it could not get worse than spending three years in law school and never passing the bar?  How about spending five years in law school and never receiving a JD?


  1. Great analysis, dybbuk! Despite all the humor and the smooth transitions, one thing stands out among everything else: that Arizona $ummiTTTT Sewer of Law grads have a 30% bar passage rate.

    If the American Bar Association cockroaches had any balls or backbone, this cesspool would be shut down permanently! This would also provide the waterheads enrolled there with the option to have their loans forgiven. Then again, these morons would almost certainly opt to attend another ABA-accredited trash pit. After all, they're "special."

  2. "A traditional law degree can cost over $100,000 [sic, should be $250,000] and three years of your life.

    "Is it worth it?

    "Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who attended Harvard Law and practiced law for five years before getting into finance, seems to think not.

    "'Of course, you get a lot out of law school — you learn a lot — but the most you get out of law school is debt,' Blankfein recently told a group of Goldman interns."

    At Arizona $ummiTTTT Sewer of Law, debt is all you will get.

    Think about it, kids (and potentially dupe-able non-traditionals):

    If the rich and connected, the ones that went to Harvard, are telling the rich and connected to stay away from law school, then why are you as poor or middle class and unconnected (your mom as the head of the local Parent-Teacher Organization doesn't count) even thinking about law school, to say nothing of going and paying real American dollars or incurring real non dis-chargeable debt denominated in American dollars to go?

  3. Wow.

    A real lesson in 'thinking like a lawyer'. In employment litigation, a primary plaintiff's tactic is to simply keep the litigation alive for as long as possible. As long as the lawsuit is alive, the defendant company (and/or its insurer) is having to spend on defense counsel*. For any motions, particularly MSJs, plaintiffs' counsel often argues with smug 'logic' very much like that on display here..

    ASLS Imaginary Conversations:

    The heat is on. Our bar pass rate has cratered, and the Feds are on to the fact that our accreditor is largely captive. The ABA may be forced to actually do something... What can we do?

    So, the problem is that our GRADUATES don't pass the bar in high enough numbers, you say?

    I see where you are going with this....I like it. Focus on one word of the 'elements', rather than the obvious overall meaning...

    It's perfect, we will make sure that we only let students graduate who are very likely to pass. We'll give them a mock bar exam. Hell, we'll give them a prior version of a REAL bar exam. Pass, or don't graduate!

    ..And, MOST importantly - we still collect all 3 years of fed-buck tuition!

    Bar pass rate problem solved! We're geniuses!

    What about standard 501? Aren't we only supposed to admit students who "appear capable" of passing the bar?

    Yes, but right now the whiners only grouse about bad bar PASS rates. It might take an extra year or maybe two for complaints to start getting serious over us just throwing low performing 3Ls into limbo. We'll justify it. We're allowed to set our own graduation requirements, and can push back that we simply have Also "appearances" are racist! Also, you are fired.

    What about interpretation 501-3 on attrition over 20%?

    We aren't 'attriting' anyone. They have completed 3 years, They get final grades. They just have to pass a simple test to graduate. We have high standards! We have academic excellence! Also, you are double fired!

    We generate at least another year or two of ROI before we collapse! Hooray!

    (and the revenue generation lives another day..)

    *Unfortunately one of the biggest mistakes I see repeatedly from Plaintiff's counsel is that they become so enamored of the brilliance of their own prolonging tactics and arguments that they forget what they came for and don't make 'economic' settlement offers, even when they are doing well on keeping the case alive, and instead smugly fall off the cliff of losing those MSJs.

  4. And, instituting a mock bar as a graduation requirement won't increase the transfer rate in any way, at all. Because..... reasons.

    1. They can all transfer to Cooley to avoid the mock bar. Double win for diversity!

    2. There's an interesting idea: students might flee en masse to another toilet just to be allowed to graduate without having to take (and likely fail) that test.

      In addition, the test might discourage prospective lemmings from applying, particularly if a large percentage of the class ends up failing the test.

  5. Doesn't really matter..

    The bottom-line is that there are only "X" number of jobs for "Y" JD graduates. As it stands, on average, the ratio is between 2:1 grads per job and 3:1.

    Of the available jobs, only a very small percentage justify the 6-figure debt incurred and that debt level is nearly constant across all law schools regardless of ranking. It's calibrated ensure that law prawfs across all the schools are paid on a consistent scale. That's it. No Big Secret.. Nothing to do with actual results which depend heavily on school ranking and then the individual's ranking within their school.

    Only 10% will ever be top 10% and there's no way around that. The average student below the T14-T10 - I say T6 - is already predestined to fail absent a high degree of luck, family wealth, and/or connections and influence.

    None of this matters to the legal community.

    What matters are their Big, Fat, Greek Paychecks for teaching 6 hours per week.

    Law school sets up 95%++ to fail. Simple as that.

    1. One caveat: the 2:1 to 3:1 ratios you mention above only apply to new lawyers.

      If we consider the number of graduates still practicing law 15 years after graduation, it will be something like 4:1 or less.

  6. How can Arizona Summit do this? The class of 2017 matriculated in 2014 (or earlier). They can't change the degree requirements while students are enrolled in the program; you must grandfather in current students. Am I wrong?

  7. Nice job. As another group of fresh faced semi-literate group of students start a new year at Arizona Summit, maybe we should send the, your letter. I just can't believe the students continue to get duped each and every year.

    1. But the advantage of setting the tuition so high is that the number of special snowflakes they have to dupe each year is quite low. This is apparently their business model: de-facto open admission, extremely high tuition, and cutting costs as much as possible.

  8. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingAugust 21, 2016 at 9:19 AM

    Legal education is like any other. To learn about automotive engineering, one can attend MIT or they can go to DeVry. Let the free market figure it out. If one wants to "risk" putting DeVry on their resume, that's on them. If a newbie wants to risk putting Arizona Cooley Marshall Valpo High School on their resume, that's on them.

    1. I disagree. Law schools have committed fraud.

      I can't sell you a house built in 1982 and tell you it was built in 2012. Law schools can't tell potential students that 95% of their graduates work as attorneys, when the number is closer to 50%. Just because people fall for it doesn't mean it's not fraud.

    2. No one "deserves" to be defrauded, as 9:19 AM implies. What law schools have done, and continue to do, is unethical and illegal. It's fraud.

    3. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingAugust 23, 2016 at 1:51 PM

      It's really not fraud if one does her homework prior to enrollment. Ask most lawyers and other legal professionals what they think of Arizona Cooley Marshall Valpo High... It's like cars...would you rather have a new Mitsubishi or a used VW/Honda/Buick? You get what you get.

    4. No, it's not "on them." As long as the federal government will loan unlimited amounts of money to law students, with no questions asked as to the likelihood the loans will actually be repaid, all of us taxpayers are paying the bloated salaries of these deans, profs, admins, etc.

      The market will figure it out only if no one is forced to guarantee someone else's stupid loan.

    5. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingAugust 24, 2016 at 12:24 PM

      The market has figured it out. It's the enrollees that have ignored what the market is telling them. Like fools who invest in Sears or those gold coins on TV. Look at Arizona Cooley's employment figures. Look at how many newbies with ZERO experience and ZERO contacts are STUCK at being a Solo. Solo for a young kid is UNEMPLOYMENT. It is on them.

    6. Problem is that the law school scam is a fraud to practicing, experienced lawyers. The glut of lawyers affects the ability of experienced lawyers to work and to gain full employment to a huge degree.

      The more people are pushed out of lower tier law schools, the less the opportunity for those who graduated before the scam became known.

      If your legal career stops at mid career because of the law school scam, you have been scammed to the nth degree and there is nothing you can do about it.

      The fraud is on lawyers who began practicing before the scam became known.

    7. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingAugust 29, 2016 at 7:52 AM

      What you just wrote is that new lawyers from Unranked schools are getting employed and competing with you for jobs. So Sad Too Bad. That's called life. However, I think what you are really arguing is that if you are an experienced Solo or a small firm lawyer you will end up competing with desperate UNEMPLOYED newbies with zero experience from Marshall, Cooley, Valpo, and Northern who are charging well under two bills to go to court. I find myself with little work since the SCAM began...there is not enough work at the lower end for 80 percent of all law graduates today and yesterday. As long as Arizona Summit and Florida Costal keep pumping them out they are hurting me.

  9. This is so awful.

    Let's imagine, just for the sake of argument, a decent chunk of the 70% or so currently failing the bar are unable to ever pass this mock bar exam and are, thus, never able to obtain their diploma. How is anybody better off as a result of this policy, other than the school who can now exclude these individuals from its actual bar passage statistics? Wow.

  10. Ok lemmings, its quiz time. The question is: Why would Arizona Summit do its gate keeping at the back end of law school instead of the front end?

    A. The rule of law.

    B. It allows the school to harvest three years of tuition dollars from its students before kicking them to the curb.

    C. Everyone deserves a chance to be a lawyer.

    D. Diversity.

    Now, think like a lawyer and answer that question. Anyone? Warren Bingham II, you out there?

    1. The LSAT always offers a choice E. Here it should pertain to the many lawyer-seeking dolphins in landlocked Arizona.

  11. This blog should focus much more on the very poor opportunities in the legal profession for experienced lawyers.

    The economy is supposedly at full employment now, but for those of us who have been looking for full-time permanent work as a lawyer for over a year without success, with all the resume bells and whistles that gets a lawyer into big law after graduation, full employment in the legal profession is a scam.

    Full employment does not apply to lawyers, who cannot expect full-time permanent jobs unless maybe they work in retail. It is mind boggling that two Harvard degrees, undergrad and law, or like degrees, can leave a lawyer empty-handed in a full employment economy at middle age, if not earlier.

    Welcome to the law school scam. The biggest scam of all is going a top law school and a top undergrad school and sailing through years of big law. None of this will guarantee you a job as a lawyer. In fact, for a substantial percentage of lawyers, the guarantee will be that you will be unemployed and underemployed for years with a very, very elite record.

  12. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingAugust 29, 2016 at 8:57 PM

    I find it interesting that when I applied to law schools during the late 80s, I never encountered these law schools. I was told by lawyers to apply to Marshall as a last resort. Marshall was the only fallback school in existence. When did these Valpo Cooley Arizona Summit Florida Costal High Schools come about? Who allowed it? Why?

    1. It was the USDOJ. Some college, having figured out that law schools tended to be cash cows, wanted to open one. The ABA said no. Said college claimed that the ABA was trying to stifle competition and the gubmint lawyers at USDOJ went after the ABA on antitrust grounds. That's when the floodgates opened. As I've posted here many times step one should be to put accredidation into the hands of an independent agency rather than a trade group that can be accused of self-interest. The AMA accredits medical schools, but access to that profession is controlled through residencies which are funded by the gubmint which is, of course, exempt from antitrust laws.

  13. "We want you to take ownership of your success": in other words, we want none of the responsibility for your failure.

  14. Excellent work, dybbuk! I also love the satire, especially with the whole spiel "about ingratitude and betrayal" - genius! (It may be satire, but it wouldn't surprise me if law schools actually did have the chutzpah to try something like that... Or if they're thinking it already.)