ABA Moves Toward Allowing Paid Student Externships

, The National Law Journal

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“Why ask students to pay to work?” she said. “A credit hour costs about $1,500 each, so why create that extra hurdle for students?”

The decision not to change the bar exam passage standard followed years of discussion about the best way to protect students as consumer of legal education. The committee had considered requiring schools to maintain a minimum pass rate for their students of 75 percent within two years of graduation, instead of the existing 75 percent within five years.

Legal diversity advocates lined up against the idea, warning that it would disproportionately harm the most racially diverse law schools and encourage admission only of students with higher undergraduate grades and test scores. Studies show that some minority groups on average score lower on the Law School Admission Test.

Ultimately, committee members felt they lacked sufficient time and data from state bar examiners to justify action, Lewis said.

“Everybody understands that we need to get all the state bar examiners on board to provide all the schools with their results,” Lewis said. “We need to get that accomplished first, and we want to figure out a way to take into account different pass rates in different states.”

National Conference of Bar Examiners President Erica Moeser has been a vocal supporter of raising the bar passage standard and called the decision “mildly disappointing.”

However, the committee has already moved to strengthen the consumer information that law schools must disclose, she said. Moreover, the number of state bar authorities disclosing exam results to law schools is on the rise, and that gives the ABA better information regarding accreditation.

Both Moeser and Lewis predicted the topic would resurface, likely as soon as next year.

“This issue is not going to go away,” Moeser said. “In fact, it might become more acute because of what we know about law school enrollments shrinking and schools going deeper into their applicant pool to fill their seats.”

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com. For more of The National Law Journal's law school coverage, visit: http://www.facebook.com/NLJLawSchools.

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