Friday, September 15, 2017

Pay No Attention to the Correlations Behind the Curtain

Dean Allard Prepares to Formulate an Explanation Regarding Bar Passage Rates, One that Does Not Require Increasing Standards...

UPDATE:  David Frakt just weighed in on Florida Coastal SOL, here, with similar conclusions.

Every so often, the debate comes up as to whether the bar exam is "too hard."  The obvious concern being that being too strict will lower the number of lawyers available to engage the need for low-cost, effective services, and it has nothing at all to do with, say, the financial viability of law schools themselves.  It was almost a year ago that we discussed that topic, and I'm sure it won't be the last time.
However, an interesting data point has occurred recently regarding Bar Exam results in North Carolina
This year, the results of most recent North Carolina bar exam were not only obtained and published by state law schools humbling bragging about their graduates’ success rates, but they were also obtained and published by the Triangle Business Journal. The data has revealed that the state’s overall passage rate is the highest that it’s been in the past three years.   
One has to ask what the change was!  Better-qualified students?  Practice-ready teaching?  Anomalous statistics?  Easier bar exams?  The intersectionality of Law and Nietzschean Philosophy?

-more below the break-

We now know that the July 2017 passage rate for first-time takers was 72.20 percent, while the overall passage rate was 61.75 percent. In July 2016, the average pass rate for first-time takers was 65.9 percent, which means there was a whopping 6.3 percentage point increase this year for first-time takers. In July 2017, the passage rate for first-time takers from North Carolina law schools was 73.80 percent, while the same rate July 2016 was 66.82 percent. For that in-state measure, we’re looking at an increased passage rate of 6.98 percentage points. What could have happened to cause such a huge uptick in first-time passers? The mass departure of students from Charlotte Law prior to the school’s closure, that’s what.
Whoops.  When looking at LST's data as well as what Zaretsky has summarized, you see a downward trend in state-wide bar passage rates from 2011 to 2016.  The incoming LSAT scores and GPAs were slowly eroding from year to year.   So, overall, for Charlotte School of Law, (1) credentials decreased, and (2) bar passage rates decreased as a general trend.  Entering 1L classes from 2011 to 2013 (who would be taking the 2014 to 2016 bar exams, approximately) were between 500 and 600 students, before you start seeing a steep decline in enrollment to the 300s in 2015 and 2016.
While many will say "correlation is not causation" and all that, it is an interesting trend nonetheless.  One has to ask, then, why these measures seem to track each other, and a major event (school closure) coincidentally coincides with the "anomalous" result of improved state-wide bar passage rate overall in 2017.   
Zaretsky answers the question for us:
Law schools, law students, and prospective law students across the country ought to take notice of the cause and effect of what happens to bar exam results when students with less-than-stellar admissions criteria [as well as their relative absence, Ed.] sit for the exam. The solution to this problem isn’t decreasing the bar exam cut rate to increase the number of those who are able to pass the test. The solution is to increase admissions standards and/or specialized tutoring for those who will be able to pass the test in the first place.
Well said, Staci, well said.  It will be interesting to see what the statistical argument from the Cartel will be in response to this, as to why the seemingly obvious is not so seemingly obvious.


  1. On a related note, I have always been appalled by the absolute shameless hypocrisy of law school faculty that charge "what they are worth" and place their students into massive debt lecturing to these same students their "duty" to provide "access to low cost legal services".

  2. Charlotte existed for one reason only: to make money. That's why it had virtually open admissions. If both Arizona Summit and Florida Coastal were to close, those states' bar exam pass rates would jump accordingly.
    But while this is obvious to just about everybody, the ABA just fiddles along, watching what was left of this profession burn to the ground.

    1. It's no accident that the profit-seeking law skules cluster at the bottom. The mission of profit is antithetical to selectiveness and quality; it demands instead lousiness and size.

    2. I don't know that there's any meaningful difference between for-profit and not-for-profit schools anymore. There are plenty of "non-profit" schools that are scams. Sadly, education has become a business; the only thing that really matters is making money (making as much money as possible), similar to the healthcare industry. Non-profits simply have to disguise their profits in order to pretend they are not making money. It's a silly game.

    3. Florida bar pass results are out. Coastal is dead last with an impressive 47.7%.

    4. Well, I've said before that the difference is significant only to an accountant, as the allegedly not-for-profit institutions merely distribute their ill-gotten gains as fancy salaries, costly junkets, and other expenditures.

      On the other hand, the profit-seeking ones seem to have thrown off every concern about standards in their quest to take in as many lemmings as possible. With few exceptions, the so-called not-for-profit institutions have not expanded to the monstrous size of, say, the InfiLaw toilets.

    5. The people running and teaching at the for-profit and soon to be defunct not-for-profits have a mighty incentive to pile up as much wealth as they can from the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil. Get it while the gettin's good, they tore down the depot from which the gravy trains used to depart.

  3. Now that Harlotte has been driven out of business, we shall never know just how badly the entering (cl)asses of 2015 and 2016 would have done on North Carolina's bar exam.

    Back in January, however, the world found out ( that Harlotte's foul-mouthed "assistant dean for student success" had told professors that a scheme of $11,200 bribes to keep the lousiest students from taking the bar exam was all that had kept her toilet school's rate of first-time passing from sinking into the 20% range. It seems unlikely that the following classes would have done better.

  4. That's a solution the "professors" will never support: "Falling bar passage rates? Get rid of the lousiest schools."