Thursday, September 28, 2006

Did you pass the bar?

Last week we got a cryptic e-mail from the Dean telling us that last year’s graduating class scored higher than usual for this school on the Florida bar. I thought it was odd that he didn’t give us the scoring percentages but I guess there’s no mystery because fortunately, Prof. Froomkin has provided us the numbers. It looks like 85.7 percent of 2006 graduates who took the Florida bar passed. That’s terrific. I think that’s about 5 percentage points higher than in the past few years – and this comes despite a higher score needed to pass.

But the professor also goes on to say that even though we had the second highest bar passage rate of schools in Florida, that shouldn’t mean we are the second best law school in the state. I don’t know what to make of his first reason – which is that many students take bars in other states and this score doesn’t reflect those people’s results. I think that if, as the professor writes, “these out-of-state test takers include many of the best and most motivated students” those people are probably passing their out-of-state bars. So that makes it a moot point, right? Surely the majority of students – and probably well over 50.1 percent of us – are taking the Florida bar, right? Anyway, I don’t understand the relevance of this point.

His second reason, which is that law school shouldn’t be a three-year bar prep class, is strange. If I understand the reasoning, he’s suggesting that the bar exam has nothing to do with actually being a lawyer. (Actually, we all know the exam is a ridiculous hoop that everyone has to go through that has little to do with measuring your ability to be a lawyer; for proof that the process makes no sense, just remember last summer when Kathleen Sullivan, former dean of Stanford law school and the author of our Constitutional Law casebook failed the California bar exam…Do you really think the public needs to be protected from one of the sharpest Con Law scholars in the country?).

Instead, law school teaches the reasoning and thinking skills that lawyers need. But there’s an obvious problem with this logic: no matter how brilliant you are and regardless of how incredible your critical thinking and analysis skills, if you don’t pass the bar exam, you can’t use those skills as a lawyer.

Presumably law schools – or the law school process – should also prepare one for the bar exam. So maybe the problem is with the system. I’m not planning to fight the system, but it seems to me that if one goal of a law school is to produce outstanding lawyers who will do great things in the legal world, then bar passage rate is the key.

8 Comments:

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if 85% of the school passes the bar when the school does not teach for the bar at all, there isn't much point in the school teaching for the bar for the 15% that doesn't pass.

 
At 9:25 AM, Blogger SuperBee said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Michael Froomkin said...

UM is the best law school in the state! But it has approximately nothing to do with the bar pass rate.

 
At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Froomkin, can you substantiate this claim? I mean, Yale is the best law school, right (where you went)? Miami is the best law school in Florida (where you teach.) What other things that Froomkin is a part of are the best?

Why is Miami better than FSU or UF or Florida Costal for that matter? What, pray tell, do you know that others don't. Please, oh Great One, enlighten us?

Also, what the heck are the criteria you suppose makes a law school the best? I imagine that you would shudder at the thought that employment rate after graduation is the measure of the best law school, right? I mean, is your idea of what makes a law school great measurable by any tangible metrics at all?

 
At 4:35 PM, Blogger some guy said...

Some people (Oh where have you gone, Bricklayer?) point to the rankings of "scholarship" which I think measures how many profs got papers published in top law journals.

 
At 9:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, this my be the snake eating its tail, for what is a top law journal? Hmmm. I guess one from a "top school," right? Alas, the circle of bad logic.

 
At 1:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, a prof at UT does this, and last year, Miami was tied with Duke for scholarly impact. But this year, they dropped off the list.

http://www.leiterrankings.com/faculty/2005faculty_impact_cites.shtml

 
At 1:09 AM, Blogger Bricklayer said...

Bricklayer is alive and well. I passed the bar with flying colors. I was quite surprised at which of my collegues passed or failed. There seems to be no discernable pattern.

As I have posted here and on my old blog, I relied heavily on commercial study aids throughout law school. This meant wider exposure to black letter law than is generally covered in lectures. That may explain why I did so well on the bar, particularly the Multi-state portion. I was familiar with many rules that some of my collegues were learning for the first time.

Your blog and others have well documented the difficulty UM Law grads face when competing for top-tier legal employment. This includes blue-chip firms, clerkships, and academic posts. The marketability of the degree is the best measure of a law school. It is wise of you (unlike the UM administration) to base your views on reality, not fantasy.

 

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