Can We Close the Racial Grade Gap?

In response to last week’s post about the racial gap in law school grades, several professors sent me articles discussing ways to ameliorate this gap. Here are two articles that readers may find useful, as well as an introductory discussion of cognitive science research in the field.

More on Paid Clinical Externships

I’ve posted before about my support for a proposed change in Interpretation 305-2 of the ABA’s accreditation standards for law schools. The proposal would allow law schools to offer externship credit for paid positions. Today I sent an admittedly tardy letter to the Council, expressing the reasons for that support. For those who are interested, I reproduce the text below:

The White Bias in Legal Education

Alexia Brunet Marks and Scott Moss have just published an article that analyzes empirical data to determine which admissions characteristics best predict law student grades. Their study, based on four recent classes matriculating at their law school (the University of Colorado) or Case Western’s School of Law, is careful and thoughtful. Educators will find many useful insights.

The most stunning finding, however, relates to minority students. Even after controlling for LSAT score, undergraduate GPA, college quality, college major, work experience, and other factors, minority students secured significantly lower grades than white students. The disparity appeared both in first-year GPA and in cumulative GPA. The impact, moreover, was similar for African American, Latino/a, Asian, and Native American students.

ExamSoft: New Evidence from NCBE

Almost a year has passed since the ill-fated July 2014 bar exam. As we approach that anniversary, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has offered a welcome update.

Mark Albanese, the organization’s Director of Testing and Research, recently acknowledged that: “The software used by many jurisdictions to allow their examinees to complete the written portion of the bar examination by computer experienced a glitch that could have stressed and panicked some examinees on the night before the MBE was administered.” This “glitch,” Albanese concedes, “cannot be ruled out as a contributing factor” to the decline in MBE scores and pass rates.

More important, Albanese offers compelling new evidence that ExamSoft played a major role in depressing July 2014 exam scores. He resists that conclusion, but I think the evidence speaks for itself. Let’s take a look at the new evidence, along with why this still matters.

No More Summer Associates?

Quinn Emanuel, one of the nation’s “superrich” law firms, is cutting most of its summer program. Rather than employ 50 summer associates, as it has in recent years, the firm will hire just 5-10. According to a memo from name partner John Quinn, the move will reduce expenses (with savings redirected toward signing bonuses for associates joining the firm on a full-time basis) and avoid the “unrealistic” nature of summer programs.

Honoring Obergefell

I’m elated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell. The decision affirms so many things I value: marriage, human bonds, tolerance, and constitutional principle. The decision also demonstrates the role that law plays in pushing us to examine prejudices; it gives me hope for further progress.

I value even the negative reactions to the opinion: they remind us that courts and legislatures maintain a delicate balance in a democracy like ours. I believe that the Obergefell majority properly interpreted and applied the Constitution but, to borrow a word from a different inspiring source, raucous discussion of our constitutional process is an essential part of that process.