Snowflake Nation: Law Students

Bar exam. Photo credit: New York Times

by James A. Bacon

Members of a “collective” of recent law school graduates and professors have signed a petition urging the Supreme Court of Virginia and Virginia State Bar to admit them to the bar without the necessity of taking the bar exam in Roanoke this year. Why? Because they’re scared of the COVID-19 virus.

“It is unsafe and inequitable to administer an in-person Bar exam in July 2020 given the risks of increasing the spread of COVID-19 through travel and large in-person gatherings,” says the petition. “During the Virginia Bar Exam, hundreds of examinees are gathered together indoors over the course of two days.”

Precautions planned by the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners are not adequate, say the petitioners, who numbered 1,157 this morning. The petition offered no specifics on how the administration of the exams would put them at risk other than the fact that they would be held indoors and exam takers would be concentrated in the same hotels. Compelling them to take the exam would “increase the already existing harm to examinees’ finances, families, mental and physical health”

Ah, the old mental health ploy. A sure sign that we’re dealing with snowflakes with exquisite sensitivities.

Granting “diploma privilege,” as the petitions are asking for, would allow all law school graduates to practice law without passing the bar exam. In recent years 25% to 30% of July test takers have failed to pass.

Petitioners advance several arguments:

  1. Our communities in Virginia need us now more than ever…. especially poor and working class Virginians, and Virginians facing housing evictions.
  2. Holding an in-person exam — now, or in a few months — poses a significant health risk to test takers and the public. Asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 would be traveling across the country and bringing the virus into crowded testing rooms.
  3. Law students will be financially, professionally, and personally harmed by a failure to adopt diploma privilege.

No word in the petition about the negative effects of unleashing lawyers upon the state — more than one in five — who were unable to pass the exam.

According to the Roanoke Times, the Board has posted a list of precautions to limit the risk of infections, including the wearing of masks, temperatures checks before entry, multiple testing areas within the Berglund Center, and social distancing measures. The Board also has created an option for law school grads to take a one-day version of the bar exam in September in Richmond. The Bar has waived the normal fee for switching dates.

Bacon’s bottom line: Any group identifying itself as a “collective” has got to be especially fragile and politically progressive. Perhaps petitioners should be examining their white privilege, as roughly three quarters of all law school students are white. Really, should members of such a white-dominated group be given a pass on one of the toughest exams in their lives?

Here are the enrollment demographics of Virginia’s law schools.

University of Virginia
White: 74%
Black: 5.7%
Hispanic: 5.2%
Asian: 6.8%

College of William & Mary
White: 75.8%
Black: 6.7%
Hispanic: 4.2%
Asian: 3.9%

George Mason University
White: 74.8%
Black: 2.0%
Hispanic: 7.7%
Asian: 7.2%

Washington & Lee University
White: 75.3%
Black: 5.1%
Hispanic: 4.5%
Asian: 6.8%

University of Richmond
White: 73.5%
Black: 6.6%
Hispanic: 1.3%
Asian: 3.2%

Regent University
White: 75.7%
Black: 7.2%
Hispanic: 7.2%
Asian: 3.2%

Liberty University
White: 75.8%
Black: 4.8%
Hispanic: 6.8%
Asian: 3.2%

Appalachian School of Law
White: 69.2%
Black: 12.3%
Hispanic: 4.1%
Asian: 5.5%

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47 responses to “Snowflake Nation: Law Students

  1. Totally bogus on their part. Online “works” and yes, you CAN take an online exam with Zoom and your phone for two-factor authentication.

    stick it to those snowflakes – make an example of them so that other slovenly excuse-makers don’t try to repeat this sloth.

  2. Hell, I had to take two bar exams. I took one in Minnesota after I graduated from law school. I was transferred from Omaha to Des Moines by my employer one year short of reciprocity. Guess what? I took a bar review course and spent some miserable time studying. Suck it up snowflakes.

  3. I hope that most of the petitioners were professors. The thought of unleashing 1,157 additional lawyers (whether they pass the bar exam or not) on the Commonwealth is pretty frightening. In the 1980’s when it appeared that Japan was on its way to global hegemony, one of my colleagues suggested that the US start importing Japanese engineers and exporting US attorneys to Japan. His estimate was Japanese GDP growth would decline by at least 3% per year within a decade and that US GDP growth rates could rise accordingly if we exported enough of them.

  4. I’m not surprised by this petition, only disappointed. I worked at a top 20 law school in 2011. Several professors informed me that the default grade was an ‘A’. Anything lower had to be explained. In part, this was to ensure its students were competitive with students at other top law schools, where the default grade was ‘A’.

    I guess the logic of this petition is that ‘A’ students have demonstrated their ability to pass the bar exam. Since everyone gets an ‘A’, no one should actually have to take the exam.

    • More evidence I’m getting old. Back in the 1970s, grades were grades based on the student’s response to the test questions or overall quality of a paper. If one got an A, she or he really deserved it. Lots of Cs and many Bs were given.

  5. “In recent years 25% to 30% of July test takers have failed to pass.”

    This very low fail rate is itself a scandal. Pass rates decades ago were reversed in many states, only roughly 35% passed. This means massive grade inflation obviously has run amok in state law bar testing as well as in American schools, colleges and universities. So now we see the pernicious affects of our schools’ grade inflation all around us today, incompetence and dysfunction spreading wild across society .

    This plague goes hand in hand with our refusal to hold anyone in public service, or enjoying political favoritism, accountable today, while we engage in witch hunts against those we deem out of political favor, the police, for example. The massive ongoing collapse of standards, accountability and virtue is killing America.

    But we are far from finished apparently.

    This widespread collapse of enforced education and job performance standards drives us to our logical next step to do away with testing altogether. Why not? We have effectively done away with testing in our public school classrooms. Now we are doing it with college and university admittance, the abolition of SATs, all objective standard to be replaced by bias and prejudice, irrespective of merit or achievement.

  6. Lol. I can’t blame them for trying.

  7. During my years at the Roanoke Times more than one college buddy ended up in our guest room while in town to take that test. Law school grads can be hired without the license, on a provisional basis, and many are. There are tasks they can undertake without having the license yet. Some of those firms might be willing to let the new hires wait until 2021 to take the bar. A second (or third) effort was not unknown before any worry about this disease!

    It will be very disappointing if the Virginia Supreme Court falls for this baloney. Pass it they must. Do or do not do, there is no try….

  8. I could see a 1-year provisional.

    I think DMV should also issue 1-year extensions on driver’s licenses too. The spousal unit received a renewal application with a “new photo required, you must renew at a DMV office.” Dumb! Just let her pay a prorate and send her a card extending the expiration date.

  9. Maybe they should have an asterisk next to their JD until they pass.

  10. Ooh, oooh, I got it! This is an opportunity to test reopening the schools. Spit the bar exam into a written, proctored in-class part, and an oral online exam. Have half the new grads show up…

    I hate suggesting using lawyers as lab rats, lab rats are lovable animals.

  11. Jim, Did you mean to leave this? Washington and LESS University?

  12. TMT,I thought only journalists were “trash.”

    • naw… any professionals who are progressives are…….. and only progressives would be lobbying for no exams…and most of them will eventually ended up being disreputable ambulance chasers and such. The “good” ones will go on to legitimate legal work!

      • Legitimate? Real estate closings?

      • Listening to NPR many years ago and the interviewee, a New York real estate mogul (Trump maybe?) was telling of buying a large, expensive property in New Orleans. His lawyer at a New York law firm called and told him, “You might want to reconsider this purchase. We did a title search and couldn’t find anything further back than 1803.”

    • There are exceptions. E.g., Tony Olivio and most trade press reporters.

      Why is it good journalism not to try to expose all aspects of an issue and to present them in a reasonably neutral manner? For example, if you were the editor and you knew the Virginia General Assembly raised gas taxes but did not touch fees for overweight truck permits, would you have told a reporter that this was not a message you wanted delivered to readers? If you were on the editorial board, would you have violated company policy to pressure news reporters not to write anything negative about then Governor Tim Kaine?

  13. OTOH, these are our future lawyers and many lawmakers, how could we ever respect them if the didn’t try to capitalize on the epidemic and the ensuing chaos?

  14. Seems like I saw somewhere that a good number of legislators are lawyers…hmmmm

  15. What the hell, let’s do the same things with doctors and engineers.

    Who gives a damn whether anyone is competent in his chosen profession?

    Who cares whether the lady operating on your heart knows which valve is malfunctioning, or how to replace it? Who cares whether the guy designing that bridge knows anything about bridge design?

    Also, it fits in perfectly with the “equality of outcome” demands of the so-called ‘anti-racists’.

  16. I dunno who is saying this but it’s not equity of outcome – it’s equitable access to opportunity.

    I doubt seriously that many folks are advocating that Doctors not be qualified.

    You kind of have to want to know what this is about and want to deal with it as opposed to dismissing it out of hand and attributing it to “equity of outcome”.

    Perhaps it’s frustration or perhaps it’s those who simply do not believe there is a problem.

    The simple fact is that people – as a race – not as individuals -but as a race are not achieving at the same levels as other races.

    Is this because their race is inferior or is it due to something else.

    You pays your money and makes your choices…

    I personally do not believe in the concept that some races are inferior.

    perhaps that’s a bias?

    • Larry,
      I agree with you that it is hard to believe that there are inferior races. However, at the risk of offending progressive sensitivities, I am certain that some cultures are superior to others. To the extent that there are significant cultural differences reflected in racial groups, disparate levels of achievement could be expected – not on the basis of race, but on the basis of culture.

      • the cultures of an entire race or what… ?? add some flesh to that thought.

      • Without disagreeing with your conclusion, I would disagree that some cultures are ‘superior’ to others. Rather, some cultures are more successful in achieving certain goals in the context of a modern economy, such as educational attainment and economic advancement.

        • If you look at the 30 developed nations in the world – would you expect the culture argument to hold true?

          I know what you’re getting at – but it’s a bit of a slippery slope.

          • We have multiple cultures in the US. Cultures which don’t emphasize education, achievement and self discipline will produce lower levels of success (in the US) than cultures which emphasize those factors.

          • according to ethnicity ? as in the black culture doesn’t emphasize education, achievement and self discipline ?

            or is it more according to the education level and income level of the parents no matter the ethnicity?

            If you looked at lower achieving kids would most of them have lower educated parents? Any correlation?

          • Inthemiddle

            Yes, I think the successful citizens of the 30 developed nations of the world share certain cultural attributes that enable them to be ‘successful’, in the economic sense of the word, despite other cultural attributes that make them culturally different. I would go a step further, those attributes are shared among ‘successful’ people in developing countries, as well. The modern, global economy rewards certain attributes more than others. This doesn’t mean the other attributes are less valuable or meaningful – they just don’t get rewarded in the same way.

          • Do you think that is independent of their education levels?

          • Inthemiddle

            Responding to your latest comment (I can’t see how to reply directly to it).

            If you are asking whether the cultural attributes are independent of the parents’ education, the answer is definitely yes.

            On a personal note, most Jewish immigrants in the early 20th C. did not have college educations. Most were poor, many lived in tenements with shared bath rooms, and many worked in sweat shops before there was a minimum wage. But their US born children tended to go to college. Even so, they were denied employment at white, Protestant professional firms, which is why there are hospitals and law firms with Jewish names.. The town I grew up in still had neighborhoods that maintained covenants against selling to Jews. The company where I worked (founded in 1902) had the reputation of not hiring Jews until the 70’s (and they still had occasional Christian prayer meetings into the 90’s). (Italians, Eastern Europeans and Asians, faced the same hurdles – a guy I worked for in a factory recalled his first job interview where there was a sign ‘Dogs and Italians Need Not Apply’. He did not apply.)

            Let me go on to respond to your comment, ‘as in black culture doesn’t emphasize education, achievement and self-discipline?’ It should be obvious, but while all black Americans suffer from racism to various degrees, blacks in America do not share a single culture. Blacks I have been friends with were a lot like me, regardless of their childhood. From what I’ve observed, there appear to be cultural distinctions among blacks who have lived in the US for generations and blacks who are recent immigrants from east Africa and the Caribbean.

            So if we’re talking about ‘black’ culture, I’d like to know what it is.

    • “I dunno who is saying this but it’s not equity of outcome – it’s equitable access to opportunity.”

      Well, the superintendent of Virginia’s schools , for one:

      “Many school divisions have designed new positions, Equity Directors, Equity Coordinators, or designated equity leads to advance equity outcomes”

      Exactly what do you think he means by “equity outcomes”?

      • Well it’s NOT equity OF outcomes. It’s outcomes that are the result of equity in education and opportunity.

        Let me ask you. Why do parents pick where they live often by the perceived quality of the school?

        They don’t want their kids to go to a school that has a high percentage of low income kids.

        When you have a neighborhood school that has a high percentage of at risk kids – it seldom has the range of education opportunities for more gifted kids that you would find at schools with a high percentage of kids with college-educated parents.

        If you have a child who is above average but in a low-income neighborhood school, he/she may not be able to overcome that circumstance and receive more challenging material from a teacher who is trained to deal with more gifted kids.

  17. LarryG,

    What do you have in mind when you say ‘equitable access to opportunity’? What would you do to make access ‘equitable’? And, what happens if the outcome remains ‘inequitable’?

    For example, The Information published an article stating that just 2.7% of Big Tech executives are black. If you compare that to the proportion of blacks in America, it is obviously disproportionate. On the other hand, if you compare it to the proportion of blacks who have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, it is spot on. Is Big Tech failing to provide ‘equitable access’?

    By the way, you challenged my assertion that the Alexandria City Public Schools are dedicated to racial equity. I don’t have the data you requested. But here’s a link to the ACPS leadership – you can tell me if you think these leaders, as well as Alexandria’s progressive City Council, are not be committed to the goal.

    My previous response to you was simply that we ask too much of schools if we think they can eliminate the challenges every individual student faces. Schools provide important support and good teachers make an significant difference. But, at the end of the day, the primary agent in education is the student, not the school, and the students have to make the effort to overcome the challenges they face in their lives.

    • re: ” What do you have in mind when you say ‘equitable access to opportunity’? What would you do to make access ‘equitable’? And, what happens if the outcome remains ‘inequitable’?”

      We are not responsible for equitable outcomes but again I ask if you have Magnet school and it’s based on merit – would you expect the percent of ethnicities to reflect their demographic percentage?

      And if it does not and there are significant disparities do you want to find out why and if there is indeed not equitable access to opportunity then deal with it?

      the question is do you want to know? Or just write it off as something we have no control over? It just is what it is?

      • Not sure what your point is here. I’m not writing anything off. Our school system is an urban majority minority student body, with over 50% of the students getting subsidized lunches, but has the benefit of an upper-income school budget. I think the efforts of our schools to provide an education to every student is admirable.

        I am confident that the leadership of our school system, including the Superintendent and every principle, the school board and the City Council (who are assigned to be liaisons with specific schools) are doing everything they can to promote racial equity in Alexandria City schools.

        If the outcomes are not proportional, it is because there’s only so much a school can do to overcome the challenges faced by students from various backgrounds (racial, ethnic, linguistic, socio-economic). If you have proof of a different reason, let’s see it.

        While we’re at it, what do you have in mind when you say ‘equitable access to opportunity’? What would you do to make access ‘equitable’? And, what happens if the outcome remains ‘inequitable’?

  18. If you look at the individual schools in a district – are the SOL scores about the same across the district?

    If they are not – how do you explain it?

    Do some schools have a majority of college-educated parents and other schools a majority of not-college-educated parents?

    Are some schools in poor neighborhoods and other schools in rich neighborhoods?

    Do the schools in the poor neighborhoods have high quality veteran teachers or newbies just out of college?

    • Elementary schools have different student populations.

      The school nearest to me is the worst performing school in the system, though test score have been improving year over year. The school finally gained accreditation after years of student test results failing to meet minimal state standards, apparently in part because an IB program was introduced at the school to encourage a different group of students to attend. Its student population is 50% Black, compared to 25% in the entire system; 65% of the student body are from low income households, which is close to average in the system (60%). Only 25% of the students speak English as a second language, compared to 60% for the system. The per student spending is slightly higher than the average for the system ($17,500 compare to $17,000). Its new building opened in 2014. It has a higher percentage of inexperienced teachers than the district average (42% compared to 27%); 62% of the teachers have master’s degrees, compared to 73% for the system. (The school’s home page states that 86% of the faculty have master’s degrees.) The student ratio is 12:1, compared to 13.8:1 for K-7 in the system.

      There are only two middle schools, and only one high school. Neighborhoods are irrelevant.

      Here is the ACPS 2020 scorecard (2015-2016 school year is the last set of grades).

      • where is this data actually – originally come from?

        re: one high school –

        yes.. agree – but some districts have multiple high schools with huge differences between them depending on neighborhood.

        • Larry, you must have grown up in an extraordinary town, where, like in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone, every child was above average.

          • nope… but when “average” and “above average” breaks out by race, there is a problem unless one believes that academic performance is actually determined/predictable by race…….

            I KNOW there are differences at the school level but the discussions are almost always at the district level.

            In small districts the bifurcation of neighborhood schools in minimal… and then the middle and high are usually just a single school.

            In bigger districts there are a lot of schools – and they align according to neighborhood and income demographics and you will see large differences in academic performance on a per school basis. You can verify this on the VDOE build-a-table also.

            but again – where is that data actually coming from?

            it’s info at the school level as opposed to district level.

            see if you can find out how that data is getting sourced.

            that data – at the school level is almost never referenced – it’s usually at the district level.

  19. Inthemiddle,
    I did not mean “black culture” and don’t know how you inferred that I meant that. I grew up in a community in which there was an “underclass” culture which quite a large proportion of my family subscribed to. It was an historical “redneck” culture whose roots could be traced back to 17th century England. Fortunately, my parents did not subscribe to that culture, even though it was their ancestral heritage. Why they didn’t subscribe to it, I don’t know, but am grateful. I suspect that there are multiple cultures among black citizens of the United States and likely each produces different approaches to life. My only point is that often the cultural values that families promote to their children may be more influential than race in the outcomes that we classify racially.

    • I was trying to respond to LarryG’s comment, “as in the black culture doesn’t emphasize education, achievement and self discipline?”.

      I’m in total agreement with your point.

      Btw, did you read Lance’s ‘Hillbilly Elegy’?

  20. I appreciate the conversation. It’s earnest and I appreciate it.

    Culture is undeniable but there are a lot of other factors in play that public education is supposed to addressed – as in ESL and various handicaps and learning disabilities.

    At-risk, disadvantaged kids – of low income, low education parents regardless of culture are harder to educate, to motivate – but they can be – and I’ll give an example of the “Success Academy” in New York.

    It can be done.

    • There is no doubt the ‘at risk, disadvantaged kids’ can succeed academically. Thomas Sowell made the same point in his essay The Education of Minority Children.

      He observed that, between 1870 and 1955, students at DC’s racially segregated M Street High School (renamed Dunbar High School) consistently tested as well as or better than the students at DC’s white high schools. It sent students to Harvard, Amherst, Oberlin, Williams and Wesleyan. When Horace Mann Bond studied the backgrounds of blacks with PhD’s, he found that more had attended his school than any other school in the country.

      Following the decision in Brown v. Board of Ed, the school became a neighborhood school, and Sowell observed that following the decision, the character of its student body changed, followed quickly by the character of the teaching staff. And Dunbar became another failing ghetto school.

      Looking at other successful black schools, Sowell concluded that their commonality was an insistence on hard work and discipline.

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