Dean of Miles Law School addresses poor Alabama Bar passage rate - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Dean of Miles Law School addresses poor Alabama Bar passage rates

Posted: Updated:
J. Richet Pearson, Dean of Miles Law School. (abc3340.com) J. Richet Pearson, Dean of Miles Law School. (abc3340.com)

Hundreds of law students are in Montgomery this week sitting for the Alabama State Bar. Passing the test is required to practice law in Alabama. The state's accredited law schools, including the University of Alabama, Cumberland, and Jones Law School had passage rates  between 88 and 91 percent last July.

There are two unaccredited law schools in Alabama. Birmingham School of Law, which had a bar passage rate of 37 percent. There's also Miles Law School, where last July 35 students took the Bar, but only three passed. That's a rate of 8.6 percent.

Records from the Alabama Bar passage rankings for the past three years show the low number for Miles last summer is not a fluke. In 2011, Miles had 26 students sit for the bar, and none of them passed. The year before, 24 students took the bar and just three passed.

Granted, Miles Law School is a night school, and it is unaccredited. Still, student pay more than $100 per credit hour. Spend four years completing the course work, and that's nearly $14,000.

And if they don't pass the bar they can't practice law. That raises the question, is a diploma from Miles Law School worth the paper it's written on.

"Certainly there is room for improvement and the law school is implementing measures to enhance the bar passage rate," said J. Richet Pearson, the Dean of Miles Law School.

Pearson says the Bar passage numbers do not determine the value of the program.

"The story really has not been told. And to frame it only with empirical or statistical information is really something that is not accurate," said Pearson.

The numbers from the Alabama State Bar are accurate. Year after year, Miles Law School continues to have the lowest percentage of students passing the Alabama Bar. But why?

Dean Pearson defends the curriculum, including a mandatory bar review course that  students must pass to graduate.

"It certainly covers the subjects that will be covered on the bar examination. And again the study of law is cumulative. From the first day they walk into class, until the last day they leave, they are taught about the legal principals and the black leather law," said Pearson.

Yet, the numbers don't lie. The best passage rate for Miles Law School students in recent years happened in 2010, when 24 students sat for the bar, and just three passed.

Miles law school is a four-year evening program. Many of its students have full-time jobs and families. And LSAT test scores are not required for acceptance.

"(Sweat) Miles Law School is preying on people who either could not get accepted into another law school, or can't afford another law school. (Pearson) Well I would certainly take strong exception to that assertion. These are students who had a dream, a dream that was deferred for whatever reason. We offer them an opportunity to realize that dream. (Sweat) But then their dreams are crushed in the end because, at the end of the day, they can't practice law. (Pearson) Again, I would have to take strong exception to that inference. First of all students come to us voluntarily seeking a law degree. They come for various reasons, as you mentioned, some come not just to practice law, but some come just for increasing their knowledge or bettering their positions at their already established careers."

Pearson challenged us to find Miles Law Students and get their take on the program. We did.

Judge Carole Smitherman, and her husband, Senator Rodger Smitherman are Miles Law School graduates. They now teach at the law school. Both say students must dedicate hours outside of class if they plan to pass the bar.

"The problem becomes the dedication of time. As Rodger said, if you don't dedicate all your time, with just a little bit of personal and family time, you won't be successful," said Judge Smitherman.

Tamika Whitt-Wright is a Miles Law School Student, and full time eight grade math teacher. She enrolled in 2011, when the school's passage rate was zero percent. She knows the dismal bar numbers, and agrees with the Smithermans.

Whitt-Wright is enrolled in two bar prep courses outside of her normal course load.   

"I'm dedicated to at least two hours a day where I'm just doing multi state questions, practicing my writing. I feel like I'll be prepared because I 'I've been preparing since day one," said Whitt-Wright.

Pearson said, "Statistics are statistics, so what I would say in response to that is look at the actual testimony of the practicing. It's possible, it's doable, and it has been done and it is being done"

Pearson says, since 1974, Miles Law School has more than 160 practicing attorneys. We asked her how many of those were from the last five years. She says she doesn't have exact numbers, but there is a good amount, though not the majority.
  
The Alabama State Bar statistics say from 2010 to 2012, 85 Miles students took the bar exam. Just six passed.

Miles Law School is separate from Miles College. They are separate legal entities, and have separate board of trustees.

  • Birmingham Area NewsMore>>

  • Death investigation launched in McCalla after man finds decomposed body while bush-hogging property

    Death investigation launched in McCalla after man finds decomposed body while bush-hogging property

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:54 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:54:06 GMT
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has launched a death investigation after a man discovered a decomposed body while bush-hogging his property in McCalla Wednesday afternoon.More >>
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has launched a death investigation after a man discovered a decomposed body while bush-hogging his property in McCalla Wednesday afternoon.More >>
  • Governor considering special session to fund economic development incentives

    Governor considering special session to fund economic development incentives

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:53 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:53:09 GMT
    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley may call a special session in November to change funding for economic incentives. The money could start coming from the education budget.More >>
    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley may call a special session in November to change funding for economic incentives. The money could start coming from the education budget.More >>
  • Barber's artist skills on display

    Barber's artist skills on display

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:46 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:46:30 GMT
    It's called "Brushstrokes Between Cuts." And it's the first major art exhibition by local barber and artist Carter "Pooley" Moorer, Jr. The exhibition features 31 paintings that Moorer created during more than 60 years as a barber at Carter's Barbershop, his families barbershop in Ensley. Moorer's work is on display at The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute now through October 12th.According to his family, Moorer took only one art class when he was a freshman at Western Olin High School, which...More >>
    It's called "Brushstrokes Between Cuts." And it's the first major art exhibition by local barber and artist Carter "Pooley" Moorer, Jr. The exhibition features 31 paintings that Moorer created during more than 60 years as a barber at Carter's Barbershop, his families barbershop in Ensley. Moorer's work is on display at The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute now through October 12th.According to his family, Moorer took only one art class when he was a freshman at Western Olin High School, which...More >>
  • Anniston - Gadsden Area NewsMore>>

  • Oneonta police need help identifying woman who stole flowers from gravesite (pictures)

    Oneonta police need help identifying woman who stole flowers from gravesite (pictures)

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 12:55 PM EDT2014-07-23 16:55:33 GMT
    Oneonta police have turned to Facebook in trying to identify a woman who apparently stole flowers from a gravesite at a Oakhill Cemetery on Tuesday.More >>
    Oneonta police have turned to Facebook in trying to identify a woman who apparently stole flowers from a gravesite at a Oakhill Cemetery on Tuesday.
    More >>
  • Suspect in Jacksonville shooting from June turns self in

    Suspect in Jacksonville shooting from June turns self in

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:06 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:06:38 GMT
    Jacksonville police said the suspect in the June shooting of a Calhoun County man turned himself into police Tuesday afternoon.More >>
    Jacksonville police said the suspect in the June shooting of a Calhoun County man turned himself into police Tuesday afternoon.
    More >>
  • Jacksonville man arrested for child pornography

    Jacksonville man arrested for child pornography

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:05 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:05:18 GMT
    William Franklin Harper (Photo: Calhoun County Sheriff's Office)William Franklin Harper (Photo: Calhoun County Sheriff's Office)
    The Alabama Bureau of Investigation’s CyberCrimes Unit arrested a Jacksonville man Tuesday for possession of child pornography.ABI officers served a search warrant at the home of 49-year-old William Franklin Harper. Harper is charged with four counts of possession of child pornography.He is currently in custody at theCalhoun County Jailwith bond setat $100,000 bond.During the search, investigators found methamphetamine. Agents of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the Calhoun Coun...More >>
    The Alabama Bureau of Investigation’s CyberCrimes Unit arrested a Jacksonville man Tuesday for possession of child pornography.ABI officers served a search warrant at the home of 49-year-old William Franklin Harper. Harper is charged with four counts of possession of child pornography.He is currently in custody at theCalhoun County Jailwith bond setat $100,000 bond.During the search, investigators found methamphetamine. Agents of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the Calhoun Coun...More >>
Most Popular
Stories
Videos
loading...
  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • Death investigation launched in McCalla after man finds decomposed body while bush-hogging property

    Death investigation launched in McCalla after man finds decomposed body while bush-hogging property

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:54 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:54:06 GMT
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has launched a death investigation after a man discovered a decomposed body while bush-hogging his property in McCalla Wednesday afternoon.More >>
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has launched a death investigation after a man discovered a decomposed body while bush-hogging his property in McCalla Wednesday afternoon.More >>
  • Governor considering special session to fund economic development incentives

    Governor considering special session to fund economic development incentives

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:53 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:53:09 GMT
    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley may call a special session in November to change funding for economic incentives. The money could start coming from the education budget.More >>
    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley may call a special session in November to change funding for economic incentives. The money could start coming from the education budget.More >>
  • Barber's artist skills on display

    Barber's artist skills on display

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:46 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:46:30 GMT
    It's called "Brushstrokes Between Cuts." And it's the first major art exhibition by local barber and artist Carter "Pooley" Moorer, Jr. The exhibition features 31 paintings that Moorer created during more than 60 years as a barber at Carter's Barbershop, his families barbershop in Ensley. Moorer's work is on display at The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute now through October 12th.According to his family, Moorer took only one art class when he was a freshman at Western Olin High School, which...More >>
    It's called "Brushstrokes Between Cuts." And it's the first major art exhibition by local barber and artist Carter "Pooley" Moorer, Jr. The exhibition features 31 paintings that Moorer created during more than 60 years as a barber at Carter's Barbershop, his families barbershop in Ensley. Moorer's work is on display at The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute now through October 12th.According to his family, Moorer took only one art class when he was a freshman at Western Olin High School, which...More >>
  • Jefferson Co. District 2 Race contested

    Jefferson Co. District 2 Race contested

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:43 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:43:48 GMT
    The election results may have been confirmed earlier this week, but the race to win Jefferson County's District 2 seat is not finished. ABC 33/40 has learned the election will be challenged. Someone has contested the election results.You may remember, only a small number of votes separated Shelia Smoot and Sandra Little Brown. The tight race was won by the incumbent.Brown tells ABC 33/40 Chairman Richard Mauk, with the Jefferson County Democratic Party was served the contest. We're told it ap...More >>
    The election results may have been confirmed earlier this week, but the race to win Jefferson County's District 2 seat is not finished. ABC 33/40 has learned the election will be challenged. Someone has contested the election results.You may remember, only a small number of votes separated Shelia Smoot and Sandra Little Brown. The tight race was won by the incumbent.Brown tells ABC 33/40 Chairman Richard Mauk, with the Jefferson County Democratic Party was served the contest. We're told it ap...More >>
  • Man found dead from apparent gunshot wound inside Locust Fork home

    Man found dead from apparent gunshot wound inside Locust Fork home

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 8:40 PM EDT2014-07-24 00:40:13 GMT
    BLOUNT COUNTY, Alabama -- A death investigation is underway in Locust Fork after a man was found dead inside a home late Wednesday afternoon.More >>
    BLOUNT COUNTY, Alabama -- A death investigation is underway in Locust Fork after a man was found dead inside a home late Wednesday afternoon.More >>
  • Samford picked to finish third in Southern Conference

    Samford picked to finish third in Southern Conference

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 8:38 PM EDT2014-07-24 00:38:39 GMT
    Coming off it's first trip to the FCS Playoffs, Samford was picked to finish third in the Southern Conference, the highest the program has even been picked in the preseason since it joined the league in 2008.More >>
    Coming off it's first trip to the FCS Playoffs, Samford was picked to finish third in the Southern Conference, the highest the program has even been picked in the preseason since it joined the league in 2008.More >>
  • C-USA commissioner says league has bright future

    C-USA commissioner says league has bright future

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 7:29 PM EDT2014-07-23 23:29:27 GMT
    The commissioner of Conference USA sees his league at a "pivot point" with a bright future at a time when he says intercollegiate athletics are transitioning from conference realignment to system realignment.More >>
    The commissioner of Conference USA sees his league at a "pivot point" with a bright future at a time when he says intercollegiate athletics are transitioning from conference realignment to system realignment.
    More >>
  • Tuscaloosa changes ordinance on ticket scalping

    Tuscaloosa changes ordinance on ticket scalping

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 7:18 PM EDT2014-07-23 23:18:58 GMT
    The city council in Tuscaloosa has approved an amendment to the municipal ordinance that now requires all members of a ticket reselling business to be licensed by the city.More >>
    The city council in Tuscaloosa has approved an amendment to the municipal ordinance that now requires all members of a ticket reselling business to be licensed by the city.
    More >>