The legal profession’s diversity advocates are necessarily alarmed at the ABA’s proposal to raise the bar. Currently the minimum pass rate is 75 percent, but a recent proposal stands to move the minimum pass rate to 80 percent. The proposal appeared to enjoy widespread support among committee members according to The National Law Journal.
The largest association of black lawyers and judges, the National Bar Association, passed a resolution opposing the proposal. Other organizations such as the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) sent a joint letter to the committee. They warned of future “consequences on law schools with racially diverse student populations.” They fear a future where the legal profession faces a lack of diversity. According to The National Law Journal, “the proposal’s opponents essentially argue that a tougher bar passage requirement would dissuade law schools from accepting students with lower undergraduate grades and Law School Admission Test scores, shutting out a larger percentage of minority students, who on average score lower on standardized tests.”
Raising the standards of the bar exam can only have positive future repercussions as students meet more of the criteria of their education. Furthermore, having more background and education for their future career is its own reward. After seeing educational standards in the United States dwindle with poorly thought out and implemented plans like the No Child Left Behind Act, lowering standards in any educational sphere doesn’t seem to be a successful plan. The United States lacks STEM students and strong quantitative profiles in our collective student body. The brain drain is still strong even in this floundering economy, and we import our technical and quantitative employees while outsourcing other functions that have a cheaper price tag abroad. Our national agenda should be to raise the standards of education so we can safeguard the nation’s future. What we have now, however, are federal funds sinking into e-learning institutions with high dropout rates along with public schools facing shut downs because they can’t compete with neighboring charter schools. Of course, diversity is an important issue, but at the same time, it is refreshing to see law schools considering even higher standards in this environment.
Diversity advocates shouldn’t see the raising of a standard as a setback. The bar could possibly be pushed higher by five points without harming diversity candidates. The best way to manage any concerns that diverse student populations would be impacted might be to further prepare them for exams. Then it becomes an issue of funding rather than socio-economics. If champions of diversity were to have funding to better prepare their candidates, then all students could reach the high standards and no student would be penalized for their achievements.