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Shock. Shock. Bar Passage Rate Plummets!

The Careerist

November 21, 2018

Indian_Turkey_Bird_(domestic)It’s Turkey Day, so who wants serious discourse? Here’s my take on some recent news items:

Face it: This latest crop is not the best and the brightest. Oh, the shock and outrage about those abysmal bar pass rates! How is it possible that takers of the July 2018 California bar exam hit a 67-year low (only 40.7 percent passed)? And it’s not just flakey, laid-back California: From Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, Indiana to New York, scores are also plummeting.

And, according to Law.com’s Karen Sloan, scores on the Multistate Bar Exam are also falling, hitting “a recent low in February, and now the average for the July 2018 test has dropped more than two points to the lowest figure since 1984.”

All over the land, law school deans are racking their brains about these awful results.

Harry Ballan, dean of Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center (48.6 percent bar pass rate), told New York Law Journal: “We will be re-examining in minutest detail everything we do, in and outside of the classroom, to assure that the continued implementation of reforms [to improve pass rates].” And Gail Prudenti, dean of Hofstra Law School (62 percent bar pass rate), pledged “to think in terms of a multi-year strategic plan” to fix the problem.

Sorry, but isn’t it obvious why the bar pass rates are so crummy? Let’s remember that those taking the bar in recent years entered law school when schools were begging for students. As I wrote a few years, your dog probably could have gotten into some law school at that time.

So stop the chest beating and just admit you let in a lot of duds.

Those latest perks are so awesome! Not! I’m sorry to be a party pooper, but I’m not at all impressed by the most recent goodies that law firms are throwing at associates.

First, wasn’t it clever that Kirkland & Ellis unveiled its concierge service for its busy lawyers? Law.com reports that the service gives “lawyers and senior staff access to a group of on-call assistants who can help with (nearly) every personal task or errand a busy lawyer could think of”—such as buying gifts, finding a nanny or moving.

I must say “concierge” has a nice ring, suggesting a personal maid or butler at your beck and call. If nothing else, Kirkland deserves credit for coming up with something snazzy.

But like all “concierge” service, I suspect this is probably more hype than reality. I mean, how often do you avail yourself of the “concierge” service on your AmEx Platinum card? And isn’t it just as easy to buy stuff yourself on Amazon.com?

While Kirkland opted for splash, Weil Gotshal went the opposite direction, coming up with most anticlimactic perk in the land: The firm just announced that associates can now work one day a week from home! Whoopty doo!

Hey, isn’t flex-time so 2008? And permission to work “one day a week”—as if that’s such a huge give?

I have a feeling that lawyers at Weil (and most firms) have been working from home or elsewhere for quite a while. From what I’ve seen, firms don’t give a damn whether you’re working from home, a boat or a yurt, so long as you keep billing.

Even in the pinkest of pink ghettos, women make less. No, I’m not even talking about practice areas like labor/employment or family law. I’m talking about legal marketers.

According to ALM Intelligence, in collaboration with Calibrate Legal Inc., female marketing heads at law firms make less than their male counterparts. That’s particularly striking, considering that women make up almost 80 percent of the professionals in legal marketing departments. In fact, “74 percent of directors in marketing and business development departments are women, and 69 percent of department heads are women.”

And the reason men make more? Oh, the usual possible explanations: men move around more or are more adept at playing the political game.

Anyway, the authors of the report write: “This finding should give law firm leaders pause. Firms need to examine their compensation systems to ensure discrimination and bias are not impacting pay.”

Oh, I’m sure firm leaders will put this on top of the priority list.

See you at the NYC Bar, Nov. 29, 5:30 p.m. I’ll be moderating a panel on women and business development. Among the hot potato topics: Is it time for quotas in client credit allocation?

Panelists include Elisa Garcia, chief legal officer, Macy’sKelly Mahon Tullier, general counsel, Visa; and Tonya Robinson, general counsel, KPMG.


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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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