Preston’s post inspired me to reiterate an idea that has been raised tangentially a few times but deserves serious consideration.
Lawprofs, including Campos now, have signed onto a meaningless pledge for incremental reform akin to a long barren path leading nowhere. I have asked Campos to explain his sudden retreat from the scamblog movement and this pledge for reform that seems to contradict most of what he stood for just a year ago. Hopefully, he explains his position at some point.
The mess of meaningless reforms reaffirmed my belief that the simplest messages are the only ones that can pierce through the white noise. Instead of a package of reforms, the scam movement should promote one simple reform to solve a number of problems simultaneously: we should petition the ABA to require a minimum LSAT score for a school to maintain accreditation. To support such a petition, plenty of statistics and individual stories of misery could help to shame them.
The state bars already require minimum bar exam scores for entry into the legal community. Wouldn’t it make the most sense to screen for the students most likely to pass the bar exam before those students waste three years and a six-figure loan? Even a modest cutoff score, like a 150, would close many law skools in dimension T3-4. In my opinion, the score should be at least 155, not an outlandish score even for those of us not naturally talented with standardized tests.
Here are my counterattacks against the traditional arguments advanced by law school apologists who do not want stricter pre-law requirements:
1) Standardized tests have nothing to do with the art and science of Lawyering (note the capital L).
Obviously. But all of the state bar organizations use standardized tests as a hurdle before admission. Why should we allow anyone and everyone to spend the time and money on attending skools with open admission policies, only to block them at the very end with a marathon series of standardized tests that make up the “bar exam” (MBE, MPRE, MPT, MEE, state multiple choice segments, state essay questions).
For better or worse, standardized tests are the basic measure of “learning” in modern America. If the state bars keep using exams as the main hurdle to admission after law school, a commonsense and ethical profession (yes, ha ha) must enforce a minimum LSAT requirement.
2) The LSAT has nothing to do with the bar exam. The tests are totally different.
The LSAT is basically a test on test-taking. However, the LSAT is a very good predictor of success on the Bar Exam. For example, T3-4 law schools that use the second and third years for mostly bar review types of courses tend to have lower bar passage rates than the highest ranked schools in the same state without such extended prep-programs. The students at the better schools with the better LSAT scores tend to have a better capacity or attention span for studying the bar exam and passing on the first try.
This makes sense: the LSAT is mainly a test of reading comprehension and, well, test-taking skills...the main skills needed for the bar exam.
3) How should we determine the cutoff score?
Remember, there are entire blocks of law skools with media LSAT scores in the 20-30th percentile range. Considering that the percentiles measure one’s success against other LSAT test-takers—not exactly the best and the brightest—it is purely a scam to admit thousands of students who have a low probability of passing the bar exam. The fact that our country allows a number of accredited law schools to exist, where the average student at those schools cannot even get half of the questions correct on the LSAT, proves the absolute corruption of the American Bar Association and the meaninglessness of its “accreditation” role.
A sobering statistic that made me very nervous after I took the bar exam: the majority of people who fail the bar exam on the first try will never pass. That scared the hell out of me while I was waiting for my score especially since my brain was so fried after the marathon exam that I had no idea how I did. And it is scary that an entire segment of bar exam test takers will never pass the exam even though they received a J.D. No comparable segment of damned test takers exists in other professions (such as medicine) because those professions screen prospective students.
I wonder why lawprofs like Campos have not signed onto a simple reform like a minimum LSAT score, especially since his school has nothing to worry about if this policy takes effect? Perhaps all professors want to avoid the closings of any law schools because of the potential for a lawprof glut…
A minimum LSAT score would close many of the T3-4 diploma mills. These closures would reduce immediately the output of lawyers. It would make the total law school applicant pool smaller, leading to smaller class sizes.
I advocate this position because of its simplicity. It works within the already established framework to achieve the closing of the lowest schools and to reduce the law school applicant pool. It also has the benefit of protecting prospective students with a high probability of never passing the bar exam. The simplicity of a minimum LSAT score looks far less “radical” than other suggestions, even if it would achieve many radical results, such as reducing the law school applicant pool by half. In fact, it is difficult to think of any good reason for not implementing a minimum LSAT score outside of self-serving drivel about “diversity” and “open access” to education.