ABA Votes to Let Law Schools Scam Students For Tuition
But There's a Compromise Proposal Which Gives Students a Fair Chance
The rejected proposal would have required law schools to have 75% of its graduates pass the bar exam, after numerous tries, within 2 years of graduation - a not unreasonable standard since passage is a requirement for graduates to do what they came to law schools to do: practice law.
The major argument against requiring a law school to provide enough training that most of its graduates can actually practice law is that some law schools admit many applicants from minority groups who tend to score much lower on bar exams, and these minority students would be adversely impacted.
Otherwise, proposal opponents argued, the small percentage of applicants with credentials - primarily scores on the Law School Applicant Test [LSAT] and undergraduate grade point average [GPA] - which predict accurately that they are likely to fail, would not have a chance to prove themselves.
Critics of this argument suggest that many of the law schools with low bar passage rates are not altruistic at all, and are primarily interested in collecting large amounts of tuition revenue to remain financially viable at a time when most law schools are struggling, and don't care if large percentages of their graduates will never be able to use their very expensive law degrees.
But there's a simple answer to largely stop students from spending over $100,000, and 3 years of their lives, only to find themselves unable to practice law, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Giving lessons while knowing that they are very unlikely to help a student earn a living - whether it's singing lessons with the implied promise of making the student a star, or law lessons with the expectation that a student will be able to become a lawyer - is an unfair and deceptive trade practice, he says.
A simple cure would be for the ABA to require law schools to provide applicants with weak credentials accurate information about their chances of being able to pass the bar; information they already have, which is based primarily upon the student's LSAT and GPA scores.
Also, to be fair to those who want to buck the odds and take a chance, and provide them with an opportunity to prove themselves despite the poor odds of success, students with weak credentials should be admitted subject to passing a bar-simulation exam at the end of their first year - an exam which would predict far more accurately if they have overcome the odds, and now have a reasonable chance of actually becoming a lawyer.
Only students who passed such an exam - which law schools might wish to give to all students, even those with high LSAT and GPA scores - would be allowed to continue on to their second and third years.
In this way, only the small percentage of students who through hard work or otherwise have proven themselves capable of becoming lawyers will spend 3-years tuition.
The others - those shown by their first year exam to have little chance of passing the bar - will at least save most of what they would otherwise have spent on tuition, and will not waste 2 or more additional years studying in hopes of joining a profession they are unlikely to be admitted to.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),
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