law-schoolWhat is your law school’s bar-passage rate?

If you’ve been out of school more than a few years, you probably don’t track that kind of data. But what would you guess? 75 percent? 80 percent? Even better?

What if you discovered your school’s bar failure rate was 93 percent?

I know; my jaw dropped too.

You may have seen this story via the ABA Journal, which reported on a lawsuit in which the Southern California Institute of Law (its real name) sued over the California Bar’s requirement that the school divulge its bar-passage rate for the past 10 exams (required of all California-accredited schools).

(Sidebar: On its website, the school says that Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski was its 2013 commencement speaker. Can anyone report what he said in his address?)

I had to smirk when I read about the school’s attempt to claim a First Amendment violation:

“The school claims it is being forced to publish a government message with which it disagrees, violating its free speech rights. The school says it disagrees with the ‘ideological belief that a law school should be judged by the passage rates of its graduates.’”

Very high-minded of them.

I think any lawyer who has ever practiced for even a day may agree that there is not a direct correlation between law school classes and successful practice, or even (necessarily) between the bar exam and practice (except, of course, that you need to pass the exam to practice).

But in an age of law school transparency efforts (like this one), prospective law students (read consumers) deserve as much information as possible. As alumni from even highly performing schools graduate and face bleak job prospects, a school’s impish insistence on its own free-speech rights is almost insulting.

And no, despite questions some folks have raised, the school’s lawyer is not one of its own graduates (which could have been problematic on UPL grounds). But I was pleased to see that George Shohet offices right in Venice Beach, where I recently visited; I should have stopped in to visit the Loyola Law School grad, who was admitted in California the same year I was. (I pointed out here how cool a Venice law office could be.)

Thanks to Above the Law for providing a link directly to the judge’s order denying the relief the school sought. You can read what ATL calls a judicial “smackdown” here. (And you’ve got to love the caption, which ends with the names of the defendant Bar examiners: “Southern California Institute of Law v. Archie ‘Joe’ Biggers et al.”)

Where do you come down on the issue? It may be a no-brainer that a school cannot hide this information. But when it comes down to it, what data really mean something to you when you consider a lawyer’s credentials?

Last week, lawyers who noted that the Arizona bar exam was in full swing may have gotten a prickly feeling on the back of their necks. I know I did. I recalled, in vivid detail, sitting for three days in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, trying to channel my inner Learned Hand.

Congratulations to all of those who navigated their way through the exam. It, and the preparation that precedes it, are defining elements of a lawyer’s career. Well done.

For some insight into last week’s travails, read Ruth Carter’s recap. Ruth is a graduate of the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. And she also was kind enough to point us toward this news story, about a very pregnant Northwestern grad who exited the exam to have her baby—but not before first completing the bar exam.

Focus, people!

Tim Burr graced the magazine cover of Arizona Attorney a few years ago. That’s when he made waves as he helped to bring admission on motion (rather than by bar exam) to Arizona’s (dry) shores.

This week, I see he’s landed on another forward-thinking beachhead, this time at the ASU Law School. As the school reported, he and Mary Ellen Natale have been hired as faculty to address issues related to the foreclosure crisis.

Tim will be director of the new Foreclosure Mediation Unit, “which will provide impartial mediation services between lenders and residential borrowers facing foreclosure.”

Mary Ellen Natale

Natale directs the new Homeowner Advocacy Unit of the Civil Justice Clinic, “in which student attorneys will represent families who are at risk of foreclosure or victims of mortgage fraud scams and engage in advocacy and community outreach on foreclosure law and related issues.”

Previously, Tim Burr practiced commercial alternative dispute resolution and real estate law with Jennings, Strouss & SalmonFennemore Craig, and Morrison & Hecker. Natale was an Adjunct Professor at St. John’s University School of Law and has several years of housing law experience with legal services programs in New York and Ohio.

Here is more information on both programs. And more information about Burr and Natale is at the law school’s website. Congratulations—and good luck—to them and the school.

And here’s some more information on our 2008 photos of Tim by the terrific Karen Shell: The inside shot has him leaning over a wall map that I took down and borrowed from our family room—I think it worked pretty well there! And the cover shot—with him holding map puzzle pieces—demanded that we confirm the states he held in his hand actually were reciprocal to Arizona. After all, you and I both know someone would have noticed—and complained—if we got it wrong!

Kevin Gover

Yesterday we received two news items that were three time zones apart, but each says something important about Indian law issues.

The more specific Indian Law analogue was the announcement of an ABA award to Kevin Gover, who is the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Pertinent for us, he has Arizona ties and is a longtime law professor at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

He will receive the 2011 Spirit of Excellence Award, given by the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.

More information on the award is here. You can read Gover’s profile, via the ASU Law School, here.

As the ABA says:

“Gover has been a tireless champion for the rights of Native American tribes,” said Fred W. Alvarez, commission chair. “He walked his first picket line as a 10-year-old member of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and marched as an undergraduate at Princeton University to draw attention to the plight of American Indians.  He rose to become Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the United States Department of Interior, responsible for policy and operational oversight of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and overseeing a $2.2 billion budget and supervising 10,000 employees  Since 2007, he has led an institution dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. His career has been truly extraordinary.”

“Gover began his career in Indian affairs more than 30 years ago, with his post on the American Indian Policy Review Commission. Shortly after receiving his law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, he joined the Indian law division of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Kampelman, where he worked exclusively on matters relating to the American Indian community. Gover later formed his own firm, focusing his practice on Indian law, which eventually became one of the largest Indian-owned firms in the country. His work caught the eye of then President Bill Clinton, who appointed Gover to his Department of the Interior post in 1997.”

Charles Calleros

(The Arizona honor continues even further: Also earning the Spirit of Excellence Award is ASU Law Professor Charles Calleros. Congratulations to both.)

The other news item that affects Indian Law issues was the announcement by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that a vacancy on the Supreme Court would be filled by Robert Brutinel, a judge on the Superior Court for Yavapai County. We reported on that yesterday.

It was Faith Klepper, former chair of the Arizona Attorney Editorial Board, who pointed out (on Facebook) that Judge Brutinel has some experience in Indian law matters.

According to his application for the position (available here at the Supreme Court website, but who knows for how long, now that he’s been named to the Court), he indicates that when he was in private practice he represented an Indian tribe. He goes on to say:

“As a practitioner, I was involved in the drafting of major revisions to the Yavapai–Prescott Indian Tribal Code. I drafted a number of ordinances in various areas of the law for the Tribe.”

Judge Robert Brutinel

The new Justice is highly accomplished in many areas, and has even been honored this year as the Judge of the Year by CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates.

But having some Indian Law experience could be extremely helpful in Arizona. And it may even have an impact on how law is taught in this state.

As we’ve noted before, a petition submitted to the Arizona Supreme Court to add Indian Law to the state’s bar exam has been tabled for quite some time now.

If the addition of Indian Law will not happen while the Court considers signing on to a broader uniform bar exam, maybe Justice Brutinel will be influential in another area: getting Indian Law added to the training for lawyers admitted on motion, without taking an Arizona bar exam.

After all, a lawyer who has worked on the drafting of an Indian Law Code may be particularly attuned to its value. That, too, would add to a spirit of excellence.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,157 other followers