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What's Wrong With Legal Education in Mississippi?

To hear the law school dean say it, there's nothing wrong with legal education at Ole Miss.

And bless their hearts, Mississippi deans don't seem to know why the bar pass rates there have dropped 27 percent in the past four years. A lowly 53 percent passed the July exam this year, and an embarrassing 36 percent survived the February test.

It can't be that Mississippi law schools have lowered their admissions standards, could it?

Yes, No, Maybe So

Ole Miss law school interim dean Deborah Bell told USA Today that the University of Mississippi has not lowered its standards.

"Our median LSAT and median undergraduate GPA remain the same as they have for many years," she said.

Mississippi College School of Law interim dean Patricia Bennett said there is no single explanation for declining bar pass rates. Look at California and Florida, not just Mississippi, she said, but:

"MC Law has never changed its admission strategy of enrolling students who we believe can ultimately become successful attorneys."

In a state that passed 80 percent of its bar takers just a few years ago, however, there is more to the story.

LST, LSAT, and GPA

Law School Transparency, which reports admissions statistics for law schools across the country, shows that Mississippi law schools have lowered their standards. Lower entrance scores tell half the story; the other half has to do with lower admissions overall.

At Ole Miss, for example, saw enrollments drop from 199 in 2010 to 108 in 2016. During that same time period, the school accepted students with lower LSAT's and GPA's.

It was the same at Mississippi College, where enrollments dropped from 212 to 135 between 2010 and 2016. The law school also accepted students with lower test scores over those years.

As enrollments have declined almost everywhere, some law schools have lowered admissions; others have shut down. Mississippi schools are still in business, but bar pass rates this year show most of the students were running on empty.

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