Actually, my biggest concern are the bar pass rates for CBE schools. After doing some research, it appears Monterey does a bit better than those in the Los Angeles area. Do you think that bar pass sucess rates are largely due to the individual or the school they attend? Or do you think the CBE schools do not fair quite as well because students are not required to have a bachelor's degree or have higher LSAT scores as ABA schools? Would like to get your opinion on that.
Several factors influence bar pass rates for CBE schools versus the pass rates for ABA. Lower academic requirements for admission may be a factor, but I'm convinced that it is not the predominant reason - or even a terribly significant one - for the lower pass rates by CBE grads. The students who graduate from CBE programs have all shown that they can perform competent legal analysis and they can pass the same law school exams that you'd find at any ABA school. The real difference lies in the attention to bar prep that CBE students on average are able to give. ABA students are predominantly unemployed or part-time workers at most. They tend to enjoy the luxury of having substantial amounts of time to study the law and to prepare for the bar. Conversely, most CBE students have full-time jobs, and a large percentage cannot take a two-month leave of absence from work to concentrate on the bar. This is the critical difference. The quality of the education itself is no different after they've weeded out the first-year students. Put ABA students in the same shoes as CBE students, or vice versa, and I have no doubt that the pass rates would virtually mirror one another.
I think all of Duncan's points about bar preparation are right on point. For example, when I arrived at MCL in 2005, about 30% of the graduates took a full-blown bar review course. The others "borrowed" prior course books, took less-expensive on-line courses, self-studied, etc. The result was a cumulative pass rate of about 38% on the California Bar Exam. We now have the BarBri course fee included as part of the regular law school tuition and have 100% participation. We also have a review course that starts in early February and is 3-4 nights a week all the way to the July bar exam. This allows working students to continue working during the day, but still complete the entire review course in time for the July bar exam. We also add several full-day Saturday practice exams that are graded by our legal writing faculty who have been through the calibration (bar grading) training program. Our cumulative bar pass rates for the California bar exam are now 66-68% and are among the top scores out of the 18 CBE law schools. HOWEVER, all of this presumes that the law student was diligent throughout law school, prepared, and performed well on all of their bar tested subjects. There is NO short cut to learning the law. I hate to say that there are no surprises, but we find that hard work and performance in law school, NOT
LSAT or UGPA are the predictors for success. I think Duncan is absolutely right that a good student can be successful at any law school