Facts about CalBar Probation

A Letter from Our Dean

February 10, 2021

To Prospective San Francisco Law School Students, As you may be aware, the State Bar of California, through its Committee of Bar Examiners, recently placed San Francisco Law School (SFLS) on probation for non-compliance with the minimum five-year cumulative minimum bar pass rate (MPR).

I would like to address your concerns about San Francisco Law School being placed on probation The State Bar recognizes that SFLS is making progress toward compliance.

By way of background, all California Accredited Law Schools are required to maintain a five-year cumulative minimum bar pass rate (MPR) of 40%. The MPR is calculated annually after the February California bar exam (CBX) results and reported and posted by July 1. San Francisco Law School’s MPR remained above 40% until 2020; however, SFLS calculated and reported its MPR as 36% in July 2020.

A timeline of events may be helpful:

  1. The July 2020 MPR calculation covered graduating classes of 2015-2019.
  2. The California State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners (CBE) issued a Notice of Noncompliance in August 2020 requiring a response demonstrating compliance.
  3. The Law School filed its response in December 2020 that did not dispute noncompliance and described the action plan to return to compliance. As part of the review and response process, the CBE provided for an interim calculation incorporating the October (delayed July) CBX results. SFLS produced a verified calculation of 38.5%, an improvement from the standard 2020 calculation, but still under the required 40%.
  4. Since the plan could not create immediate compliance, an inspection of the Law School on this issue took place on January 13, 2021.
  5. The Law School was placed on probation on January 29, 2021.

As noted in the Accredited Law School Rules and cited by the CBE in their Action in Response to Notice of Noncompliance and Inspection Report, “Probation for a specified time is appropriate when the Committee decides that an accredited law school or any approved branch or satellite campus has not complied with these rules, but has made progress toward compliance.” (Rule 4.172(B))”

As part of the probationary status, Alliant must provide a notice to each current student, which must be acknowledged in writing by each student as well. Also, as required, we are amending all disclosures to fully inform the public and consumers of this probationary status.

The State Bar of California has been examining the bar exam content, the minimum passing score, and the declining bar pass rates and conducted a series of studies to evaluate aspects of the exam. As a result of the studies, the California Supreme Court permanently lowered the minimum passing score to 1390 beginning with the October (delayed July) 2020 administration. Other exam changes were made in this CBX administration as well. The changes resulted in a significant increase in pass rates. The overall pass rate was 60.7%, up from the 50.1% in the previous July. California Bar accredited program graduates’ first-time pass rate increased to 40% from 26% percent in the previous July. SFLS’s pass rate for first-time takers was also 40% during this administration.

SFLS has taken an incremental approach to improve student success in law school, better preparing graduates to take and pass the CBX, and equipping graduates with stronger skills to work as licensed attorneys. Changes have included strengthening MBE courses and adding other exam skill preparation. Below is a review of our most recent efforts.

In 2018:

  • SFLS focused on strengthening student’s foundational skills in legal writing and analysis by including two new courses for all first-year students: Student Success Skills and Foundations of Legal Analysis.
  • The legal writing curriculum was reviewed and strengthened;
  • Additional learning and study resources through Westlaw TWEN were made available to students; and
  • A minimum LSAT score of 135 was implemented as an admissions requirement.

In 2019:

  • SFLS faculty began offering tutoring sessions to all graduates who previously failed the bar exam, by supplementing CBX tutoring and study resources available to them during the JD program.
  • SFLS strengthened the structure of this program and offered graduates free one-on-one tutoring and practice essay review and feedback for the three months prior to the February 2020 Bar exam. A small number of alumni took advantage of these tutoring services.

In 2020:

  • SFLS introduced the SFLS Alumni Bar Exam Preparation Assistance Program in July 2020. This program offers weekly bar preparation seminars to all alumni free of charge. The program is run by four professors each specializing in an area of the bar exam, the Essay, MBE, and Performance Test. The program incorporates practice questions with direct feedback from the professors.
  • All graduates can also receive one-on-one tutoring on standard law principles from SFLS faculty.
  • SFLS is currently working with graduates preparing for the February 2021 exam.

In 2021:

  • Introduction of Academic Excellence Program
  • Under the leadership of the current SFLS administration and faculty, the Law program has undertaken a new comprehensive curricular revamping of the four-year Law Program called the Academic Excellence program (AEP). Students entering in 2021 will enroll in the reconceptualized curriculum.
  • The Law School hired a second full-time faculty in Fall 2020 to participate on the development of a new profession-ready curriculum, as well as CBX exam preparation. The new faculty member has expertise as a CBX grader and in training newly licensed attorneys.
  • Seventeen new and revised courses have been developed, focusing on core program outcomes: Legal research, writing, analytical skills; litigation skills, and advanced writing.
  • Course content has been reorganized to ensure that learning builds on and integrates information from prior courses.
  • Increased focus on CBX preparation is another key part of the redesign. For example, a new required Analytical Skills course will be taken each summer. The Analytical Skills courses will utilize the CBE substantive material of 1L courses (i.e., Criminal Law, Contracts, and Torts) to reinforce substantive knowledge and emphasize improving student’s legal analysis and MBE exam-taking skills.

SFLS believes the decision to revise the curriculum in a comprehensive way will provide students with a stronger educational experience. Evaluation of this new program will take place through assessment and analysis of student performance on relevant rubrics, cumulative GPA, student retention, and success on the California Bar Exam. SFLS will continue to offer all the existing tutoring and support as described in the prior section to support exam takers who do not pass the first time. We are fully committed to ensuring that SFLS returns to full compliance with the State Bar of California requirements as quickly as possible. The next California Bar Exam will be administered on February 23–24, 2021, with results available in May. This will be the first opportunity to potentially raise the MPR and remove the probationary status

SFLS has been a California accredited law school since California started accrediting law schools in 1937. SFLS is fully committed to student success and maintaining standards set by the California State Bar to continue to be a California accredited law school. This has been and remains our highest priority for the Law School. SFLS administrators have worked closely and collaboratively with the California State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners. While ensuring adherence to its rules, the Committee of Bar Examiners has recognized and been supportive of San Francisco Law School’s improvement efforts and commitment to meeting all required standards.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions. Sincerely, Timothy P. Weimer, Dean San Francisco Law School (415) 955-2162 timothy.weimer@alliant.edu

1. Coincidental with the MPR, the Law School was undergoing the regular periodic Inspection Report process during the onsite inspection held in spring 2020 and results reported in fall 2020. 2.0California has had the second-highest cut score (144 in MBE units) for the MBE portion of the exam behind Delaware.

Probation Q&A


Why was San Francisco Law School placed on probation by the State Bar of California’s Committee of Bar Examiners?

All California Accredited Law Schools are required to maintain a five-year cumulative minimum bar pass rate (MPR) of 40%. The MPR is calculated annually after the February California bar exam (CBX) results and reported and posted by July 1. While San Francisco Law School’s MPR remained above 40% until 2020, SFLS calculated and reported its MPR as 36% in July 2020.

A timeline of events may be helpful in further answering this question.

  • The July 2020 MPR calculation covered graduating classes of 2015-2019.
  • The California State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners (CBE) issued a Notice of Noncompliance in August 2020 requiring a response demonstrating compliance.
  • The Law School filed its response in December 2020 that did not dispute noncompliance and described the action plan to return to compliance. As part of the review and response process, the CBE provided for an interim calculation incorporating the October (delayed July) CBX results. SFLS produced a verified calculation of 38.5%, an improvement from the standard 2020 calculation, but still under the required 40%.
  • Since the plan could not create immediate compliance, an inspection of the Law School on this issue took place on January 13, 2021.
  • The Law School was placed on probation on January 29, 2021.

As noted in the Accredited Law School Rules and cited by the CBE in their Action in Response to Notice of Noncompliance, “Probation for a specified time is appropriate when the Committee decides that an accredited law school or any approved branch or satellite campus has not complied with these rules, but has made progress toward compliance.” (Rule 4.172(B))”

What must SFLS do to be removed from probation?

To be removed from probation San Francisco Law School’s MPR must be above 40%. As mentioned above, all California Accredited Law Schools are required to maintain a five-year cumulative minimum bar pass rate (MPR) of 40%. The MPR is calculated annually after the February California bar exam (CBX) results and reported and posted by July 1.

SFLS administrators are fully committed to ensuring that SFLS returns to full compliance with the State Bar of California requirements as quickly as possible. The next California Bar Exam will be administered on February 23–24, 2021, with results available as early as May. That will be the first opportunity to potentially raise the MPR and remove the probationary status.

If SFLS MPR is not above 40% after the February 2021 admission of the Bar Exam, the next opportunity to raise the MPR and remove the probationary status will be the July 2021 bar exam. The final opportunity to raise the MPR and remove the probationary status will the February 2022 bar exam.

What happens if SFLS loses its accreditation?

SFLS has been a California accredited law school since California started accrediting law schools in 1937. SFLS is fully committed to student success and maintaining standards set by the California State Bar to continue to be a California accredited law school. This has been and remains our highest priority for the Law School. Based on the improvements implemented in the SFLS law program over the last few years, SFLS fully expects the MPR to be above 40% before the July 1, 2022 deadline. However, in the event that SFLS does not bring the MPR above 40% by July 1, 2022, the CBE would remove its accreditation of SFLS. SFLS would then apply to become a California-registered, unaccredited law school. Students who graduate from a California-registered, unaccredited law school may still qualify to become a licensed attorney in California. To qualify, SFLS graduates would also need to meet the requirements of the 4-year rule, or 270 hours of classroom attendance during a consecutive 12-month period.

Guideline 6.5(G) of the Guidelines for Accredited Law School Rules address combining Study at Accredited and Registered Unaccredited Law Schools. It states, “Students who obtain a portion of their legal education at a registered unaccredited law school and a portion at an accredited law school present a special case. Unless such students actually graduate from an accredited law school and premise their eligibility to take the California Bar Examination upon that graduation, they must meet the alternative legal educational requirements of section 6060(e)(2)(E) of the Business and Professions Code in order to be eligible to take that examination. Section 6060(e)(2)(E) requires four separate years of study in a law school (accredited or unaccredited), in each of which the student was enrolled in a course of study requiring at least 270 hours of classroom attendance. For this purpose, a “year” is any period of twelve consecutive months. Law schools allowing students to carry a lighter than usual course load during any twelve-month period should be aware of these implications, should such students ultimately seek eligibility to take the California Bar Examination under the above four-year rule rather than as graduates of an accredited law school.”

Again, based on the improvements implemented in the SFLS law program, SFLS fully expects the MPR to be above 40% before the July 1, 2022 deadline.

What options do SFLS students have if SFLS loses its accreditation?

Any student graduating from SFLS before July 1, 2022 will have earned his/her Juris Doctorate degree from a California Accredited Law School. Graduates can apply and sit for the bar exam, as long as all other requirements are met.

Students who graduate from a California-registered, unaccredited law school may still qualify to become a licensed attorney in California. To qualify, SFLS graduates would also need to meet the requirements of the 4-year rule, or 270 hours of classroom attendance during a consecutive 12-month period.

Guideline 6.5(G) of the Guidelines for Accredited Law School Rules address combining Study at Accredited and Registered Unaccredited Law Schools. It states, “Students who obtain a portion of their legal education at a registered unaccredited law school and a portion at an accredited law school present a special case. Unless such students actually graduate from an accredited law school and premise their eligibility to take the California Bar Examination upon that graduation, they must meet the alternative legal educational requirements of section 6060(e)(2)(E) of the Business and Professions Code in order to be eligible to take that examination. Section 6060(e)(2)(E) requires four separate years of study in a law school (accredited or unaccredited), in each of which the student was enrolled in a course of study requiring at least 270 hours of classroom attendance. For this purpose, a “year” is any period of twelve consecutive months. Law schools allowing students to carry a lighter than usual course load during any twelve-month period should be aware of these implications, should such students ultimately seek eligibility to take the California Bar Examination under the above four-year rule rather than as graduates of an accredited law school.”

How long will SFLS remain on Probation?

SFLS has until July 1, 2022 to raise its MPR to 40% or higher. Once SFLS reports a MPR of 40% or higher to the CBE, the CBE will review the report at its next meeting and remove SFLS from probation.

How is SFLS addressing the issue?

SFLS has taken an incremental approach to improving student success in law school, better preparing graduates to take and pass the CBX, and equipping graduates with stronger skills to work as licensed attorneys. Changes have included strengthening MBE courses and adding other exam skill preparation. Below is a review of our most recent efforts.

In 2018:

  • SFLS focused on strengthening student’s foundational skills in legal writing and analysis by including two new courses for all first-year students: Student Success Skills and Foundations of Legal Analysis.
  • The legal writing curriculum was reviewed and strengthened;
  • Additional learning and study resources through Westlaw TWEN were made available to students; and
  • A minimum LSAT score of 135 was implemented as an admissions requirement.

In 2019:

  • SFLS faculty began offering tutoring sessions to all graduates who previously failed the bar exam, by supplementing CBX tutoring and study resources available to them during the JD program.
  • SFLS strengthened the structure of this program and offered graduates free one-on-one tutoring and practice essay review and feedback for the three months prior to the February 2020 Bar exam. A small number of alumni took advantage of these tutoring services.

In 2020:

  • SFLS introduced the SFLS Alumni Bar Exam Preparation Assistance Program in July 2020. This program offers weekly bar preparation seminars to all alumni free of charge. The program is run by four professors each specializing in an area of the bar exam, the Essay, MBE and Performance Test. The program incorporates practice questions with direct feedback from the professors.
  • All graduates can also receive one-on-one tutoring on standard law principles from SFLS faculty.
  • SFLS is currently working with graduates preparing for the February 2021 exam.

In 2021:

  • Introduction of Academic Excellence Program
  • Under the leadership of the current SFLS administration and faculty, the Law program has undertaken a new comprehensive curricular revamping of the four-year Law Program called the Academic Excellence program (AEP). Students entering in 2021 will enroll in the reconceptualized curriculum.
  • The Law School hired a second full-time faculty in Fall 2020 to participate on the development of a new profession-ready curriculum, as well as CBX exam preparation. The new faculty member has expertise as a CBX grader and in training newly licensed attorneys.
  • Seventeen new and revised courses have been developed, focusing on core program outcomes: Legal research, writing, analytical skills; litigation skills, and advanced writing.
  • Course content has been reorganized to ensure that learning builds on and integrates information from prior courses.
  • Increased focus on CBX preparation is another key part of the redesign. For example, a new required Analytical Skills course will be taken each summer. The Analytical Skills courses will utilize the CBE substantive material of 1L courses (i.e., Criminal Law, Contracts, and Torts) to reinforce substantive knowledge and emphasize improving student’s legal analysis and MBE exam-taking skills.

SFLS believes the decision to revise the curriculum in a comprehensive way will provide students with a stronger educational experience. Evaluation of this new program will take place through assessment and analysis of student performance on relevant rubrics, cumulative GPA, student retention and success on the bar exam. SFLS will continue to offer all the existing tutoring and support as described in the prior section to support exam takers who do not pass the first time.

Would a first-year student entering fall 2021 be required to take the First Year Law Student Bar Exam (FYLSX) in June 2022 if SFLS becomes a registered, unaccredited law school?

If a student completed the first year at an accredited law school in good standing and at full class load for a part-time 1L from a school that is an accredited law school, they would establish an exemption from the FYLSX. If they then continued at a registered law school, the character of their final JD would be a degree from a registered, unaccredited law school.

Any student who has not completed the full class load for a part-time 1L student by end of spring semester 2022 would be required to take the FYLSX. If they then continued at a registered law school, the character of their final JD would be a degree from a registered, unaccredited law school.

Students who graduate from a California-registered, unaccredited law school may still qualify to become a licensed attorney in California. To qualify, graduates would also need to meet the requirements of the 4-year rule, or 270 hours of classroom attendance during a consecutive 12-month period.

What is the likelihood that SFLS will lose its accreditation?

SFLS administrators are fully committed to ensuring that SFLS returns to full compliance with the State Bar of California requirements as quickly as possible. The next California Bar Exam will be administered on February 23–24, 2021, with results available in May. That will be the first opportunity to potentially raise the MPR and remove the probationary status.

SFLS has been a California accredited law school since California started accrediting law schools in 1937. SFLS is fully committed to student success and maintaining standards set by the California State Bar to continue to be a California accredited law school. This has been and remains our highest priority for the Law School. SFLS administrators have worked closely and collaboratively with the California State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners. While ensuring adherence to its rules, the Committee of Bar Examiners has recognized and been supportive of San Francisco Law School’s improvement efforts and commitment to meeting all required standards.

I truly believe the professors at SFLS are world-class instructors and dignified attorneys, and as such, they are the best role models a law student can have.

Jeryl Wilford SFLS Alumnus

Please note that not all programs are available at every campus, online, or to residents of every state. Alliant International University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), a regional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

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