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 amendments to Guidelines 12.1 and 12.2, Guidelines for Accredited Law School Rules (Guidelines), re Criteria for Determining Compliance with Accredited Law School Rule 4.160(M) (Minimum, Cumulative Bar Examination Pass Rate) and Action Taken When a Law School is in Noncompliance with Guideline 12.1

BACKGROUND:

Effective Jan. 1, 2013, all California-accredited law schools (CALS) became subject to a new accreditation standard that requires the school to maintain a “minimum, cumulative bar examination pass rate.” As required by Rule 4.160(M) of the Accredited Law School Rules (Rules) the CALS “must maintain a minimum, cumulative bar examination pass rate as determined and used by the Committee in the evaluation of the qualitative soundness of a law school’s program of legal education.”

To enforce this new standard, the Committee also adopted two new amendments to the Guidelines for Accredited Law School Rules (Guidelines): Guidelines 12.1 and 12.2. Guideline 12.1 sets the current, minimum, cumulative bar examination pass rate (MPR) at 40 percent and requires that the CALS calculate and report their respective rates as five year rolling, annual percentages. As currently described in Guideline 12.1, a CALS calculates its MPR by dividing the total number of its graduates who take and pass the California Bar Examination (CBX) over the previous five years, by the total number of its graduates who take the CBX at least once whether or not they pass during the same period of time. Graduates who choose never to take the CBX are not counted in calculating a school’s MPR.

Guideline 12.2 requires the CALS to report their MPRs in their 2013 Annual Compliance Reports, and for any CALS that failed to report a MPR of at least 40 percent, the Committee could have issued a Notice of Noncompliance pursuant to Rule 4.170. One of the goals in adopting this new accreditation standard and the associated Guidelines was to have the CALS calculate and report a MPR that is accurate, consistent and verifiable. Soon after the adoption of Rule 4.160(M) and Guidelines 12.1 and 12.2, however, a number of CALS Deans expressed concern that the methodology described in Guideline 12.1 is unclear as to which CBX administrations the CALS should use, and which classes of eligible graduates were to be counted to calculate and report an accurate MPR. Concern was also expressed that, as adopted, the ambiguity of Guideline 12.1 could lead to inaccurate and inconsistent reporting of this important new accreditation metric by some or all of the CALS.

In recognition of these concerns, the Committee of Bar Examiners (Committee) deferred implementation of Guidelines 12.1 and 12.2, so that the requirement that the 2013 Annual Compliance Reports contain MPR reports was suspended until amendments to Guideline 12.1 and Guideline 12.2 could be adopted. Amendments to the guidelines were discussed by the Committee’s Advisory Committee on California Accredited Law School Rules (RAC) and it submitted proposed amendments to the Guidelines for review by the Committee during its March 14, 2014 meeting. The Committee accepted the version submitted by RAC, subject to a 30-day public comment period and final adoption by the Committee during its next regularly scheduled meeting.

Any public comments received regarding the proposed amendments to Guideline 12.1 and Guideline 12.2 will be submitted to the Committee’s Advisory Committee on California Accredited Law School Rules (RAC) for its comments prior to final consideration by the Committee, which will be at its April 25 and 26, 2014 meeting.

PROPOSAL:

The proposed amendments to Guideline 12.1 and Guideline 12.2 are specific as to the time period for the five-year reporting periods. The primary goal in selecting the July 1 through June 30 time period was so that the students who graduate in May and then take the following July administration of the CBX can be counted. Starting each fiveyear reporting period with the pass results of a July administration and ending it with a February administration, the CALS will be able to report the success of those graduates who graduate in the same five calendar years for each reporting period. The proposed amendments also clarify the methodology that should be used to make the calculations.

ANY KNOWN FISCAL/PERSONNEL IMPACT:
None

ATTACHMENTS:
Attachment A contains the proposed amendments to Guideline 12.1 and Guideline 12.2.

SOURCE:
Committee of Bar Examiners

DEADLINE FOR COMMENTS:

April 15, 2014

DIRECT COMMENTS TO:
Lauren Fletcher
The State Bar of California
180 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
415-538-2310
415-538-2304 (Fax)
Lauren.Fletcher@calbar.ca.gov