House of Delegates Vote Against Change in Bar Pass Standards

aba bar pass standards law schoolEarlier this month, the ABA House of Delegates rejected a proposal tightening ABA accredited law school bar pass standards at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Miami. This ruling comes after much debate from both sides of issue.

Resolution 110B was proposed by the ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar after the Council escaped a suspension for being too lax on its admissions standards last summer. The Council approved the resolution changing Standard 316 in October last year pending approval from the ABA House of Delegates.

If the House of Delegates would have approved the resolution, many ABA-accredited law schools may have lost their accreditation status. According to the proposal, all ABA-accredited schools must have a bar pass rate of 75% within a two-year period.

Under the current bar pass standards, law schools have some flexibility in maintaining their accreditation. Today, law schools must have a bar passage rate of 75% during a three to five year period OR the school’s first time bar passage rate must be no more than 15% below the state’s average in at least three of the last five years.

According to ABA rules though, this resolution could still become a reality despite the House of Delegates’ ruling. The House of Delegates can reject a resolution twice from a council, but, in this case, the Council on the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar still has the ultimate say over all accreditation standards. So, hypothetically, the Council could reintroduce the proposal to the House of Delegates in August and adopt it even if the House rejects it in six months.

Resolution 110B, was not the only law school-related proposal reviewed at the Midyear meeting two weeks ago. The House of Delegates actually reviewed and approved another, Resolution 110A.

The proposal amended the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for the Approval of Law Schools, including changes to the following: Standard 204: Self-Study; Standard 303(a): Curriculum; Interpretation 303-1; Standard 311(d): Academic Program and Academic Calendar; Standard 501: Admissions; and Rules 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, and 41: Appeals Panel.

Ultimately, Resolution 110A reinforced the idea that ABA-accredited law schools must adopt, publish and adhere to admissions policies consistent with the Standards, and only admit applicants who are capable of finishing law school and passing the bar exam.

For more information regarding the changes to law school accreditation and bar pass standards, read the ABA Council’s accreditation process guidelines online.

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