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Published: Saturday, 5/19/2001

Setback for UT Law

SOME critics have misinterpreted our past editorial criticisms of the University of Toledo College of Law as some bizarre effort to “get” that institution. Our motives, however, are not sinister at all.

We want to see a law school that is as good as or better than any other in the state - a difficult task in light of the systematic starvation of UT by a three-C oriented state government and the fact that too many Ohioans treat higher education as an unwanted stepchild, except for athletics.

That having been said, it is not possible to shrug off the latest showing of UT law school graduates in the February, 2001, Ohio bar examination. Only 58 per cent of first-time takers passed the exam, placing UT seventh among the nine Ohio law schools, a drop from its fifth place showing last July.

One might expect Cincinnati and Ohio State to be at the top, given their resources. The showings of Case Western Reserve and Akron were passable, but the rest ranged downward from 73 to 44 per cent among first-time test-takers.

An interesting phenomenon is that among repeat test-takers the passing score ranged downward from 57 per cent at Cincinnati, 50 per cent at Toledo, and 37 per cent and 33 per cent respectively for the University of Dayton and Ohio Northern University. Not everyone who earns a diploma from an Ohio law school is qualified to meet the standards of the Ohio bar, and society does not owe them such a position. Such people should be counseled to find other ways to make use of their legal education, as many no doubt already do.

Still, one of the virtues of the American academic system is the opportunity for students to succeed on a second or third try.

Phyllis D. Flowers of the UT law school, who passed the test in February on her third try, commented:. “Not only am I a full-time employee . . . but I am also a single mom of a 6-year-old.” Law plays an important role in the texture of American life, and students like Ms. Flowers may impart a more human dimension to the practice of law.

As for Dean Phil Closius, who rounded up the usual alibis and said the results were not unexpected, it is a little harder to be sympathetic. “We would be more upset if this kind of thing was happening essentially a year from now,” he said. That sounds like a man who hopes that by next year people will have forgotten what he said this year.

Ultimately, of course, it is important to understand that the purpose of the bar exam is not to keep people out but to let people in - qualified people who can demonstrate a minimum level of competence. They do not need to be another Brandeis or Marshall, but they had better master the basics.

Northwest Ohio needs a good law school, but more than that it needs an institution whose reputation extends far beyond the bounds of northwest Ohio.

Perhaps Dean Closius, who has not been admitted to the practice of law in this state, would be better able to understand the problem if he would take the Ohio bar exam himself. In any case, the time for excuses is running out. It is time for consistently better performance on the bar exam.

The law college must survive and thrive. We want that as much as the university does.



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