41% of law grads disliked the move to pass/fail

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many law schools shifted courses online and moved to a pass/fail grading system. But 41% of this year’s graduates say they were unhappy with the change, a recent survey by Kaplan found. 

While 48 percent of graduates said they supported the change, most said it shouldn’t continue when the pandemic is over. The survey found 63 percent said it needs to go back to the same way grades were issued when they attended law school. 

A quarter of the survey takers said they would be fine if law schools kept the pass/fail grading system in place moving forward, but the vice president of Kaplan’s bar prep programs, Tammi Rice, said that is unlikely. 

“Students who are looking to work for top law firms or secure prestigious internships know that high grades help differentiate them from others vying for those same positions and most are loath to give that up,” Rice said. 

Nearly 200 law graduates who took Kaplan’s bar prep course, participated in the survey in May 2020. 

Law schools that made the move to drop the traditional letter grades stated it was to part of an effort to lower students’ anxiety and show empathy for their students who are under an elevated level of stress during the pandemic. 

“These are unparalleled times for everyone and legal education certainly isn’t immune from changes that were once unthinkable just six months ago,” Rice said. “It’s quite understandable that law schools have moved to pass/fail grading on a temporary basis since students are already stressed out enough thinking about how to stay healthy, securing a job, and prepare for the bar exam. Combining that with the naturally hyper competitive nature of law school could add to that stress, adversely affecting students’ mental health. Students’ physical and emotional well-being must always take priority, perhaps now more than ever.”

Rice says it’s important to note that the pandemic is still a long way from being over and more significant changes to legal education, which already includes online learning, are likely on the way. 

“Students should continue to make their voices heard and also adapt,” Rice said. 

The results above are based on the survey taken by 188 law school graduates who took the Kaplan bar preparation course. Kaplan Inc. serves over one million students globally with its higher education, test preparation, professional education, English-language training and university preparation programs.