PLEASE NOTE: Publication for public comment is not, and shall not be construed as, a recommendation or approval by the Board of Trustees of the materials published.

SUBJECT:

Proposed new rule, Rule 4.160(M), Accredited Law School Rules, and proposed new Guidelines 12.1 and 12.2, Guidelines for Accredited Law School Rules, which would be used to interpret a new accreditation standard requiring California-accredited law schools to maintain a minimum, cumulative bar examination pass rate. If ultimately adopted, the current numbering in the rules and guidelines would be revised to accommodate the insertion of the new rule and guidelines.

BACKGROUND:

The Committee of Bar Examiners’ Advisory Committee on California Accredited Law School Rules, which is composed of three representatives from California-accredited law schools and three Committee of Bar Examiners (Committee) representatives, voted by a majority vote to recommend to the Committee that the Accredited Law School Rules and the Guidelines for Accredited Law School Rules be amended to include a minimum Cumulative Bar Examination Pass Rate (CBEPR) as a new standard for accreditation. The Committee considered the matter during its June 29, 2012 meeting and approved the recommendation in principle, subject to a public comment period that includes a public forum for receiving oral comments. During its July 2012 meeting, the State Bar’s Board of Trustees Committee on Regulation, Admissions and Discipline Oversight agreed that the new rule should be circulated for public comment.

Attachment A contains the proposed new rule, Rule 4.160(M). Attachment B contains two proposed new guidelines, Guideline 12.1 and Guideline 12.2, which would be used to interpret and enforce the new rule. If ultimately adopted, the current numbering in the rules and guidelines would be revised to accommodate the insertion of the new rule and guidelines.

Under the current rules and regulations, the Board of Trustees approves any amendments to the Accredited Law School Rules and the Committee approves any amendments to the Guidelines for Accredited Law School Rules, which would occur after a period of public comment and consideration of any comments that have been received.

PROPOSAL:

Proposed Rule 4.160(M) and the two new guidelines will, for the first time, require that California-accredited law schools (CALS) maintain a specified minimum, cumulative bar examination pass rate (CBEPR). If ultimately adopted, the proposed new rule will replace existing Guideline 6.2(K). Currently, Guideline 6.2(K) is only one of eleven criteria used to judge whether a CALS is maintaining “a qualitatively and quantitatively sound program of legal education.” Under the current guideline, when evaluating the soundness of a law school’s program of legal education, the Committee considers: “The cumulative success of the law school’s graduates on the California Bar Examination over such period of time as the Committee determines is appropriate.”

Since the current rules and guidelines were adopted in 2009, no specific time period has been established by the Committee to assess the “cumulative success” of the graduates of a CALS on the California Bar Examination (CBX), and no quantitative percentage rate has been set to define what constitutes “cumulative success.” As now proposed, the success rate of a CALS’ graduates on the CBX (or any other bar examination) over a five-year time period will be used to calculate its CBEPR. An individual law school’s CBEPR will then be calculated annually as a rolling, cumulative average based upon the total number of its graduates who take and pass the CBX (or the bar examination of any other state), divided by the total number of its graduates who take the CBX (pass or fail) over the same period of time. Graduates of a CALS who choose not to take the CBX or any bar examination will not be counted in the calculation of a law school’s CBEPR.

As provided by proposed Guideline 12.1, to remain compliant and maintain its accreditation in good standing, a CALS will be required to calculate and report a CBEPR at the rate of 50%. If ultimately approved and to provide each of the CALS sufficient time to meet this standard, the 50% minimum rate would not go into effect until fall of 2015. By the fall of 2013 and again in 2014, a CALS will be required to report a CBEPR of only 45% to remain in compliance with Rule 4.160(M). As provided in the comment under proposed Guideline 12.2, the Committee may ask that a noncompliant law school provide an explanation and evidence of its recent efforts to improve the pass rates of its graduates by means of changes to its admission policies, grading, probation and scholastic standards and academic support program before issuing a notice of noncompliance.

ANY KNOWN FISCAL/PERSONNEL IMPACT:

None.

ATTACHMENTS:

Attachment A contains the proposed new rule, Rule 4.160(M).
Attachment B contains two proposed new guidelines, Guideline 12.1 and Guideline 12.2, which would be used to interpret the new rule.

SOURCE: Committee of Bar Examiners

PUBLIC FORUM:

In addition to the opportunity to provide written comment, interested persons who wish to make comments orally on the proposed new rule and guidelines are invited to do so during a public forum that will be held on Thursday, August 23, 2012, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., in a meeting room located on the 4th floor of the State Bar of California’s San Francisco offices, 180 Howard Street. Please contact Kim Wong (contact information listed below) no later than August 17, 2012 if you wish to have your name included on the list of speakers.

DEADLINE FOR COMMENTS:

September 17, 2012

DIRECT COMMENTS TO:

Kim Wong
The State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 538-2319
(415) 538-2304 (Fax)
Kim.Wong@calbar.ca.gov