Law School Discussion

Chemerinsky Advocates Replacing CA Bar Exam

Chemerinsky Advocates Replacing CA Bar Exam
« on: May 28, 2015, 05:47:35 PM »
Interesting article by Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UCI law school and Conlaw giant. He argues that CA should follow NY's lead and adopt the Uniform Bar Exam. I'm not entirely sure what the UBE entails, but it does seem like CA's exam needs a reboot. The two, three hour long performance tests are absurd.
 
I'm all for a demanding bar exam that weeds out those who should not be lawyers, but a 39% pass rate? That almost seems punitive.

 http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0511-chemerinsky-standard-bar-exam-20150511-story.html


Re: Chemerinsky Advocates Replacing CA Bar Exam
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2015, 08:04:08 PM »
The number of California-approved but non-ABA schools plus foreign lawyers should also be considered with that bar passage rate. A more comparable # is first-time ABA takers.

Re: Chemerinsky Advocates Replacing CA Bar Exam
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2015, 10:36:24 AM »
Here are the stats for first time takers:

CA ABA   54%
Out of state ABA   41%
CA Accredited   30%
Non Accred Fixed   22%
Non Accred Correspondance   33%
Non Accred DL   38%

The bottom four categories (non-ABA) combined are usually no more than 15% of the total test takers. Foreign degree holders are usually 1-2%. Even if those applicants had passed at the same rate as ABA grads (approx. 50%), the overall pass rate would still be only 47%.

What's bringing down the CA pass rate is not the relatively few non-ABA grads, it's the slew of ABA grads who are only passing at 41-54%.

It seems to me that either other states are too easy, or that CA needs to rethink it's exam. 

Re: Chemerinsky Advocates Replacing CA Bar Exam
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2015, 11:53:44 AM »
I also think the number of applicants has gone down significantly so there are less competitive students.  When the economy collapsed in 2008-2009 law school applications were significantly higher in 2011-2012.

76% in 20122
68.3% in 2012

Then everyone said there were no jobs etc and then law school applications are now down significantly. Therefore, a less competitive pool and lower passage rates.

Let's also not forget that exam soft collapsed during the 2014 California Bar Exam, which likely did not help anyone. http://www.law360.com/articles/565473/examsoft-faces-multiple-suits-over-bar-exam-disaster

Re: Chemerinsky Advocates Replacing CA Bar Exam
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2015, 12:11:28 PM »
Yes, I agree that all of those issues factor into the rate.

However, look at the historical trend over many years. 2015 isn't exactly an outlier. The rate may vary by 5-10%, but  California always has the lowest pass rate. Doesn't that say something about the exam?

I mean, is there any evidence that lawyers in other states are less qualified because they passed less difficult exams? My guess is that the average lawyer in say, Ohio (which has something like an 80% pass rate) is just as competent as the average CA lawyer.

Just my personal opinion, but I think they should dump the performance tests. They just seem like six hours of pointless busy work, and don't really test legal knowledge. Even dropping one PT and replacing it with more essays or short answer questions would make more sense to me.   

Re: Chemerinsky Advocates Replacing CA Bar Exam
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2015, 12:52:44 PM »
I think one of the main reasons California is routinely lower is you can take the examination by attending a non-aba school.

Additionally, these are three simple theories that may or may not be true, but may have an impact.

1) California allows foreign law school grads that complete an LLM to take the California Bar. Do those test takers count as ABA law school grad/first time takers? If so I imagine the percentage of those grads passing on the first try is substantially lower. Not even because of intelligence, but simply if English is not your first language noticing the minor nuances on a MBE question would be difficult as would adjusting to life in a new country etc .

2) I believe California has the most out-of-state ABA law school grads taking the exam.  For any student taking an exam in the state they did not attend law school makes a difference. Although, there is a lot of similarities there are differences in state law.

3) I believe many attorneys that graduated law school long-ago and passed a separate bar years ago attempt to take the California Bar, while working etc. I knew a Stanford undergrad and law school grad that was very intelligent and worked for one of the most prestigious law firms in New York, which is the exam they took out of law school.  10 years later this person attempted to take the California Bar and  did not pass. They were having to bill 200 hours while simultaneously studying for the California Bar and then had to fly into California etc. The person is a first-time taker ABA grad, but not the typical type you think of.

I would be interested to know what the percentage of California ABA Law School Grads who are taking their first bar exam three months after graduating from law school is.

On top of that lets be honest whether you pass the bar or not has a lot more to do with the individaul. I had a friend in law school that just did not take it seriously the first time. She was fully capable of passing and did, but she was burned out from law school and admits she put in a half-ass effort and did not pass. Is that the law school or California Bar's fault? No.  Another friend of mine in law school had one of his parents die two weeks before the exam and another was diagnosed with cancer a month before. These people did not pass on their first time either and all three went on to pass on their second try, but those instances make it understandable how they did not pass on their first try.

People are people and I guess I really dislike these blanket statistics that cannot possibly take into consideration each individuals personal circumstances.

The California Bar Exam is difficult, but thousands of people pass it each year so it is not impossible.

Re: Chemerinsky Advocates Replacing CA Bar Exam
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2015, 05:20:05 PM »
I essentially agree, especially with the part about personal motivation and discipline being a huge factor. But here's the thing, forget about the non-ABA grads and the handful of foreign lawyers and you're still left with ABA pass rates of only 54% and 41%. That's like twenty or thirty points lower than most states.

So what explains that? Several possibilities:

1) CA has more slackers/attracts more out of state slackers than other states. Possibly.

2) CA law schools do an unusually poor job of preparing students for the CA bar/out of state students do an unusually poor job of preparing. Maybe, probably not.

3) The California bar is unusually difficult. This seems to be the most obvious answer.

The question I have is this: is there any real benefit to this? Do we get better lawyers as a result? A better job market? I'm not convinced. I think Chemerinsky makes some valid points about degree mobility. 

Re: Chemerinsky Advocates Replacing CA Bar Exam
« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2015, 05:54:53 PM »
Chemerinsky always makes good points, but I don't think it needs to be any easier or any change is necessary. California is a very desirable place to live and there is no shortage of lawyers in California.

If the pass rates were 10% maybe something needed to change, but according to the July 2014 Bar Exam Results 3,818 out of 6,220 people passed.http://admissions.calbar.ca.gov/Examinations/Statistics.aspx#statsGBX

 This is a pass rate of 61.4% of all non-aba, aba, repeaters, etc. 61% passed.

3,818 were able to do it so it can be done. Does UC Irvine having a 60% bar passage rate have more to do with him being upset probably? However, even if you look at the numbers for Irvine it is one of those messed up thing 3 out of 5 UCI students passed so 60% passage. B.S., but I am sure that 60% did not impress his bosses at UCI so he is taking it out in the article.

Is the bar extremely difficult, yes. However, as my professor told me it is supposed to hard.

I wanted to be in the NBA, but I didn't make it. I don't think they should make it easier to get in. Anything worth doing is not easy and if the percentage was 5% and there were not enough lawyers in California then make it easier, but people do pass and there are certainly more than enough lawyers in California as it is.



Re: Chemerinsky Advocates Replacing CA Bar Exam
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2015, 12:50:57 PM »
It is interesting how the unaccredited on campus is double digits below online. You'd think it would be the opposite. Anyone have links to any official studies on why that is? Sounds like an interesting paper class elective for any quasi ambitious but still not overly so 3L's who might be reading this.........

Re: Chemerinsky Advocates Replacing CA Bar Exam
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2015, 03:04:12 PM »
It is interesting how the unaccredited on campus is double digits below online. You'd think it would be the opposite. Anyone have links to any official studies on why that is? Sounds like an interesting paper class elective for any quasi ambitious but still not overly so 3L's who might be reading this.........

I wondered the same thing. Here is my guess: the majority of online grads come from one school, Concord. That school has a higher bar pass rate than any other online school. Maybe they're a little more selective, maybe they simply have a superior program, I don't really know.

Anyway, my point is that I'm not sure that the online format is necessarily better than the fixed facility format, it's just that Concord in particular has a better program, produces most of the online test takers, and pushes up the overall online pass rate. 

Another issue might be that the handful of fixed facility non-accredited schools are very small, and have very limited budgets. I think they pretty much rely on local attorneys to teach one or two classes, and there might be a lot of variation in the quality of the programs. Concord has enough money to hire good people and to provide academic support programs.

It would also be interesting to see what the attrition rates are at each school. I wonder if Concord weeds out a lot of underperformers quickly?