The bar exam results for Florida are in and they are not good

The February bar exam scores usually possess the lowest scores. Most February test takers are usually second-timers and probably failed for a reason the first time around. However, the results from these Florida law schools were from first-time test takers meaning it does not factor in people who have failed before.

The results are as follows:

Florida Coastal School of Law (Jacksonville, FL): 32.7% pass

Barry University School of Law (Orlando, FL): 35.9% pass

St. Thomas University (Miami Gardens, FL): 42.3% pass

Stetson University School of Law (Gulfport, FL): 53.3% pass

University of Florida (Gainesville, FL): 56.3% pass

University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL): 53.1% pass

Ave Maria School of Law (Naples, FL): 52.9% pass

Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, FL): 75% pass

Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL): 71.4% pass

Florida International University (Miami, FL): 84.6% pass

Both Florida Coastal and Barry University boasted in the fact that they had the most students sitting for the bar exam, which usually is not a good sign. Florida Coastal is notorious for its unreasonable investment and low employment score (29%).

Even though the University of Florida and the University of Miami had the least number of test-takers, the results are still very surprising. Only about half managed to pass. UF has an employment score of 68% and a US News Rank of 47. UM has an employment score of 67% with a US News Rank of 63.

Nova Southeastern and Florida State University continue to well with about 3/4 of their test takers have passing marks. FSU has an employment score of about 68% and has a US News Rank of 45. Florida International University did the best, with a 84.6% pass rate.

Article via Above the Law, April 11, 2016

Photo: Last Undergraduate Class via Stephen Grebinski [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Undergraduate majors that get the biggest pay boost from law degrees

A new study conducted by Michael Simcovic and Frank McIntyre available at the SSRN showed that humanities majors get a median $45,000 pay boost in annual earnings with a law degree. This is compared to a $29,000 boost for STEM majors- science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. These figures are derived from the Census Bureau data that identifies occupations and professional degree holders.

To estimate the group of law school graduates, the study authors looked at professional degree holders which excluded those who worked as medical professionals, accountants, teachers, education administrators, clergy and psychologists—fields where many people with professional degrees other than law degrees are likely to work.

When the study looked more closely at earnings for professional degree holders working only as lawyers, the median boost in annual earnings was $60,000 for  humanities majors, $54,000 for social sciences majors, $49,000 for business majors, and $66,000 for STEM majors.

This study also took notice of the average annual income for specific majors among the professional degree holders. In the business category, economics majors holding JD’s make the most on average: about $187,000 a year. In the STEM category, electrical engineers make the most; about $166,000 a year. In the humanities category, history majors make about $151,000 and in the social sciences, political science majors make about $150,000.

Michael Simcovic is a law professor at Seton Hall University and Frank McIntyre is an economics and business professor at Rutgers University. These same professors published a controversial study finding that a law school graduate makes about $1 million more than an undergraduate college graduate.

When looking at the proportion of law degree holders, 48% have undergraduate degrees in humanities or social sciences. Only 18% were STEM majors. “Thus the majors that are disproportionately over-represented among law graduates—humanities and social sciences—are also the majors for whom the expected benefits of law school are the greatest,” the study says.

Article via ABA Journal, March 9, 2016

Photo: LAW749_20120518_0539 via Villanova Law [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Can ‘borrower defense’ help forgive student debt?

A once obscure federal law is being cited by more than 7,500 borrowers who applied to have their debt erased because many schools apparently used illegal recruiting tactics.

Wall Street Journal reported that if schools violate a state law regarding the recruiting process, federal law states that students may receive forgiveness of debt from the government’s Direct Loan program. One example of a violation would be if the school lied about how many of its graduates landed jobs.

Unfortunately, there are some downsides. The law does not specifically state what is needed to prove fraud. The U.S. Education Department is presently drafting rules to provide clarification.

Most of the 7,500 borrowers that are seeking loan forgiveness attended private universities and 3/4 of those colleges were owned by now-defunct Corinthian Colleges. But, Above the Law says some unemployed law grads are encouraged to apply for loan forgiveness through this program known as “borrower defense”  or “defense to repayment.”

In spite of the negatives, Above the Law sees a positive beyond individual borrowers who might be able to benefit. In a blog, they state this: “If enough borrowers are granted relief under the borrower defense program, the Department of Education will eventually start investigating law schools that continue to admit under-qualified students who end up with no jobs and are unable to pass the bar exam.”

Article via ABA Journal, February 4, 2016

Photo: 2011 10 06 – 1237 – Washington DC – Occupy DC via thisisbossi [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


UN launches ideathon for college students to address gender-related violence

The United Nations is launching an “ideathon” for college students in an effort to address the issue of violence against women and LGBTQ people on university campuses. All of today, students are meeting in two to six hour long “physical brainstorming sessions” with the intention of addressing a key question: “How would you create a culture of transparency on college campuses to end gender-based violence?”

The event is part of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism initiative, under the umbrella campaign of HeForShe, which seeks to incorporate men into the movement for gender equality. HeForShe is providing students participating in the ideathon with a list of realistic suggestions in order to facilitate conversation about implementable changes in campus policies.

According to the UN, one in three women have experienced physical and sexual violence, and one in four are sexually assaulted in college. Moreover, LGBTQ people face double the risk of experiencing gender-based violence in college than their heterosexual peers.

HeForShe advertised the event in a video featuring a college student espousing his school pride: “We can make it somewhere we all feel safe—proud of how we got here, what we learned. We can speak out and never be a bystander.”

Article via Mashable, 3 December 2015

Photo: Visiting Artist: Robert Kraft via Berklee Valencia Campus [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


TED: How it makes an impact on the community

If you haven’t heard of TED yet, it’s a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. The main conference is held in California and was started 25 years ago, and it’s influence has been growing exponentially since then. All other TED events are called TEDx and are independently organized TED-like events with the same mission. These events often discuss science, technology, education and communication and have been known to spark innovation and social change by  providing the opportunity to shed light on less known facts and causes that are happening at a  local level.

I had the pleasure of attending the TEDxHouston 2015 event this year, where there were several talks  highlighting themes of social change, innovation and technology.

Teresa O’Donnell, Founder of  Plant It Forward  , spoke of her professional life as an entrepreneur. In an effort to do more community work through her company, she studied and became more informed on the plight of refugees coming to America.  For those who seek refuge in this country, it takes a minimum of 5 years to achieve that status. A refugee must prove that conditions in their  home country are incredibly difficult (persecution and war)and that it  has become impossible for them to return home without fearing for their lives. Houston, Texas in particular has received a large number of these refugees. Once the refugees arrive in the United States, they face the confounding problem of not speaking the dominant language, as well as not having transferable work skills.

To solve this problem, Plant It Forward partners with social and church groups to provide land and tools to refugees who settle in Houston with few other skills besides farming. Houston now has a growing community of organic gardens that sell  fresh fruit farmed by refugees at local farmers markets. Through Plant It Forward farms, refugees have the opportunity to build a life for themselves and their family while enriching the city with their farming skills.

Enriching the city was a theme that arose continually throughout the day. Susan Rogers focused on  community development and city planning; she works as a designer, professor and director of the Community Design Resource Center (CDRC) in Houston. The CDRC’s  goal is to use design to enhance change in the community and are focused on serving the public interest by improving the development of all communities. She spoke specifically about the economic disparities existing between the eastern and western half of the city, and how this is reflected in the design and therefore service of the communities. By preserving the culture and uniqueness of all neighborhoods, it improves other public services that cater to their residents, thereby raising the standard of life for all.

Talks like these are not just  happening in the United States, they happen all over the world. In 2015 there are over 3000 Ted events scheduled with talks about everything from education, to medicine, to life and career.

TED around the world

If you don’t have time to attend a TED event, you can easily watch a recording which is  available for free at TED.com. Talks are even arranged by topic and influence in convenient playlists.

The true power of TED comes from the opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes, and become aware of possibilities that you may not have known existed. TED provides a platform to bring to light issues that are too often not discussed and gives insight into the wonder of the human spirit,  reminding us how truly amazing it is to reimagine the world the way that we believe it should be.

Photo via: Ted.com


Ravel Law to digitize Harvard legal library

Though it may seem surprising, most legal rulings, despite being public domain, are not available for free to the general public. Harvard owns the most comprehensive collection of U.S. case files, a collection second only to that of the Library of Congress. The Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow believes that “law should be free and open to all,” though. In order to make that belief a reality, Harvard has partnered with legaltech startup Ravel Law to digitize its legal library. It will take a team of seven people to carefully take apart more than 40,000 physical books of case files and scan them. After all of the case files have been digitized, Ravel Law will make the database of legal research searchable and available online for free. Additionally, the creators of Ravel Tech hope to add the ability to visually represent connections between cases in order to better visualize patterns over time.

Though anyone will be able to access these digitized case files for free, this “Free the Law” project will also help small firms that are not able to afford access to large legal research databases like LexisNexis and WestLaw. Additionally, the creators of Ravel Tech hope that other innovators and nonprofits will be interested in developing their own search and analysis tools for the case files. These tools, search functions, and visual maps that Ravel Law hopes to implement will be especially important. Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard law professor and director of the law library, explains that, “It’s one thing just to access it in a book. It’s another to be able to build relationships among cases because nobody reads the law from cover to cover starting with the first book.”

Article via BuzzfeedNovember 9, 2015

Photo: This Book via Bob AuBuchon [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]