Should Mississippi College continue to operate a law school? The question was asked in a column posted by attorney Ken Walley on the Mississippi Litigation Review website. It is no understatement to say the law school is facing its share of challenges right now. Mr. Walley wrote:
Dean Rosenbatt retired at the right time. The collapse in demand for law degrees is hitting Mississippi College hard. 2011 saw MC’s last big class: 214 students. Then, reforms pushed by the watchdog group Law School Transparency and negative media attention gave college students the picture of the job market that law grads already knew. As applications fell, MC shrank the 1L class size by 55 students and maintained quality. That is, until 2014, when the bottom fell out.. (Click on link to see graph)Kingfish note: To think JSU advocates were pushing for a third law school years ago. There are no easy answers. Part of this problem is caused by the ABA's rules on accreditation. Law professors don't carry the same courseload as do undergraduate professors. That increases the costs for law schools and makes them less efficient. Some law schools such as Andover (Read about its fight back in the 90's) faced great resistance from the ABA when they tried to use a faculty that was composed of primarily practicing attorneys instead of law professors who never billed an hour or saw a courtroom.
In June, a Department of Education panel recommended temporarily stripping the ABA of the power to accredit new law schools, a responsibility it has held for 93 years. Under heightened scrutiny, the ABA is likely to amend the minimum bar passage requirement for schools to require at least 75% of all graduates that take a bar exam to pass within two years for a school to remain accredited.
Passage rates are declining with student quality all over the country, and Mississippi is no exception. As I recall, when I took it in 2009, the passage rate was 85%. The passage rate for Mississippi’s July, 2015 bar exam was 70.2%. For 2014, MC Law reported an average school pass rate of 72%, which is below the new requirement. The students that took that bar exam are measurably better than the ones that will be taking the bar in 2017 and 2018.
The ABA’s consumer information disclosures have been around long enough that we can now follow a class from its 1L year through to when it takes the bar exam. In 2011, there were five law schools in the country that had 25th percentile LSAT scores in the low 140’s, as MC now does, and we can see how each performed on the bar exam three years later:...
The law schools don't reflect the demand or the market. The ABA model imposed on the law schools mandates students should primarily work no more than twenty hours a week. It prefers students to not work at all. The model assumes students are seeking a degree and must go to law school on a full-time basis, thus forcing students to run up even more debt.
There are executives, business owners, and others who would take classes at law school without seeking a degree if they were allowed to do so. Classes such as contracts, oil & gas, or federal tax come to mind. That is lost revenue for law schools and such students would probably pay for part-time classes without incurring student loan debt.
There is one question for the more recent MCSOL grads who read this site. Does MC still use the dreaded C curve? It used to put their graduates at a disadvantage when they competed with grads from other law schools who benefited from higher grade curves.
So what should MC do? What do readers recommend? Should it close the law school? What improvements or reforms should it make?