Ever wonder why the kids in some school districts score better on standardized tests (the kind states use to comply with no child left behind etc)? Is it because their teachers are better? Or, is it mainly due to the environment they come from? I think it is the environment. Please see my recent letter to Calbar in response to an article concerning non-ABA schools in the state.
April 13, 2006
Dear California Bar Journal,
Thank you for publishing Nancy McCarthy's article on your website. I wonder if State Senator Joe Dunn has considered this possibility:
The best and the brightest choose ABA law schools because an ABA degree gives them the most options upon graduation--not because they are concerned about the quality of the legal education received at an ABA school.
These best and the brightest constitute raw materials that are going to do well in whatever they choose to do and to some degree regardless of whatever school they go to. For the most part ABA school grads do well on the California State Bar exam. Is this because they got a better education at the ABA school or because they are just smarter people who wouldn't think of going to a school whose degree limited their options? Why should the ABA take credit for these people who were better than the rest before they ever darkened the door of an ABA law school?
I believe that we would see a significant change in the Bar exam pass statistics if there was a level playing field. ABA grads know they will have better job prospects and will be able to practice anywhere in the country they choose. Non-ABA grads face entrenched notions from employers and Bar examiners around the country. As things are right now, the people who are most likely to do well on the Bar exam are the same people who would not consider going to a non-ABA school. If you were to minimize or remove the limited options of the graduate of a non-ABA school, more of these people would attend non-ABA schools and the reputation of these schools would have the better raw material benefit which the ABA schools have enjoyed for so long.
Moreover, an entire hierarchy of non-ABA schools might arise throughout the country. Just as ABA schools are very selective along the lines of LSAT and GPA, it is conceivable that non-ABA (correspondence schools, for instance) could start doing the same thing because with the limited options minimized or gone, more people would be interested in a non-ABA school. It's entirely possible that non-ABA schools might arise which would be more selective than all but the top ten of the ABA schools. Then, when these people attend, (either fixed facility or correspondence), graduate, take the Bar and practice, you might see that they are doing just as well as the ABA grads and in many cases better---because they have the right stuff!