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]


Apple refuses to hack into terrorist iPhone

Apple is being criticized by a British solider’s family for refusing to hack into an iPhone linked to December’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook spoke out against the court order on Wednesday, calling the demand “chilling” and saying that compliance would be a major setback for online privacy. Many digital rights groups agree.  The federal government’s attempts to capture data from tech companies has been met with apprehension and fear. Just a few months ago, several tech companies started standing up to government data requests. But not everyone agrees with Apple’s stance on this issue.

Major tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple all want to protect their customers’ data by securing it at the highest levels. But, federal governments like the US and the UK want these companies to find ways to hack into customer hardware and accounts, arguing that privacy should not come at the expense of national security. This ongoing battle over encryption puts tech giants on one side, and law enforcement and intelligence on the other.

Fusilier Lee Rigby was off duty and walking down the street near his barracks in Woolwich, England, in May 2013 when he was the victim of a brutal attack by two men who told witnesses they were avenging the killing of Muslims by British soldiers.  Ray McClure, Rigby’s uncle, believes that Apple is doing nothing more than “protecting a murderer’s privacy at the cost of public safety.”

“Valuable evidence is on that smartphone and Apple is denying the FBI access to that information,” McClure said, arguing that a warrant to search a smartphone should be no different than a warrant used to search a property.

In the court order handed to Apple, the company was told it must assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone linked to San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook. In addition to unlocking the phone, The FBI wants Apple to build a new version of its iOS mobile software that would be able to bypass the iPhone’s security so that the agency could hack any device remotely. In an open letter published on Apple’s website, Tim Cook stated that Apple has been working with the FBI, providing data and advice on how to move forward. But the creation of software that would allow the FBI to bypass Apple’s security simply doesn’t exist. “The US government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create,” said Apple CEO Time Cook.

Article via Cnet, 18 February 2016

Photo: Apple CEO Tim Cook by Mike Deerkoski [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]


The law school brain drain and bar pass rates

For the past few years, alarmingly low bar pass rates have made headlines. In July 2014, Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners declared that the current bar exam test takers are “less able” than their predecessors. Law schools deans argued that this was a harsh categorization of their graduates. However, when the July 2015 bar exam results came in, Moeser’s statement was proven correct. Since the law school crisis began, applicants with lower qualifications who were predicted to encounter difficulty passing the bar exam were admitted in packs.

The great law school brain drain is evident but let’s take a closer look on what caused this great phenomenon. Jerry Organ, professor of the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis has been tracking LSAT profiles of law school students for years. His analysis shows that LSAT scores correlate with scores on the bar exam. Below is a graph that displays categories of LSAT scores and the percentage of those with that score matriculated into Law school.

LSAT-Matriculant-Score-Changes-2010-2015-600x368

While the percentage for the students that scored between a 150-159 remained relatively stable, the 160+ category slowly declined and the students that scored below a 150 continue to increase every year. This is what happens when law schools need money and accept virtually anyone. Organ noted that “the top is eroding and the bottom is growing” and predicts the brain drain will have lasting effects: “Given that the LSAT profiles of matriculants and of law schools for fall 2013, fall 2014 and fall 2015 are less robust than those for fall 2011 and fall 2012 (the classes that graduated in 2014 and 2015, respectively), one can anticipate that the declines in median MBE scaled scores and corresponding bar passage rates in 2014 and 2015 will continue in July 2016, 2017 and 2018 absent increases in attrition, significant improvement in academic support programs at law schools, or improved bar preparation efforts on the part of graduates.”

Article via Above the Law, January 20, 2016

Photo: Studying via Francois de Halleux [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Handshake software integrates with Ravel

Handshake Software, a provider of SharePoint-based products and services to the legal market, announced its tech integration Ravel Law, a legal search, analytics, and visualization platform. The move is based on the need to provide a legal search product to law firms that will allow them to be more efficient in their practice.

Glenn LaForce, vice president of global sales & marketing at Handshake Software stated, ““Attorneys are under tremendous pressure from their clients with regards to the billable hour, so bringing together as many data sources as possible into one universal search is paramount for their practice,” he said. “To be able to perform legal research while seeing key financials, internal documents, contacts and internal expertise helps the attorneys become more efficient and effective.

This move is a strategic integration between the two companies products. By combining these technologies, the users Sharepoint experience will include search that allows for all knowledge to be in one place. LaForce confirms this by saying, “Lawyers, CIOs and knowledge management professionals tell us they want one system to deliver one-stop [knowledge management] information to their users. Our integration with Ravel Law is another important aspect of the Handshake Software’s all-encompassing solution that includes integration to online legal research and other major legal applications.”

The goal is to provide and environment where users will have access to critical firm data as well as online law research materials. This allows attorneys to more effectively manage the business and practice of law. We’re excited to bring these technologies to lawyers in one easy-to-find location,” said Nik Reed, co-founder and chief operating officer at Ravel Law.

 

Article via LegalTechNews, 12 January 2016

Photo:Assignments by Ryan Hyde [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]