Will Higher Standards for the Bar Exam Mean Fewer Blacks in the Legal Field?

Will Higher Standards for the Bar Exam Mean Fewer Blacks in the Legal Field?

Historically Black universities could become more reluctant to accept students who score poorly on law school entrance exams, critics fear.

Published August 11, 2011

The American Bar Association, the accrediting agency for U.S. law schools, is considering a new proposal that will require law school graduates to score higher on the bar examination, which could in turn impact the number of minorities practicing in the field of law, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reports.


In 2007 the ABA required that for a law school to remain in good standing, at least 75 percent of graduates must pass the bar exam in the state where the school is located in at least three of the past five years, the report states. Law schools can maintain good standing if their first-time bar passage rate is not more than 15 percentage points lower than other law schools in that state, the report adds.


The proposed requirements would raise the bar passage rate to 80 percent or no more than 10 points lower than other law schools in that state. The difficulty of bar exams varies from state to state.


Many college deans, especially those at historically Black universities, fear that in order to meet those standards, universities will be less likely to admit students from disadvantaged backgrounds who typically score lower on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).


LeRoy Pernell, dean of College of Law at historically Black Florida A&M University, is one of those deans speaking out about the potential impact on incoming Blacks to the field of law.  


“When the statistics tell you that virtually every Black college will be in noncompliance, it’s a matter of grave concern,” Pernell told the National Law Journal.

(Photo: Spencer Weiner-Pool/Getty Images)

Written by Britt Middleton


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