We've known for some time that law schools have increasingly admitted less qualified applicants as overall size and quality of the applicant pool has declined, which has been a major reason for the sharp decline in bar passage rates. From Keith Lee, we may be observing another issue on the admissions front: an increase in students with character and fitness issues.
Mr. Lee draws his information from a North Carolina report (PDF). A commission on legal professionalism reported that character and fitness issues rose significantly between 2012 and 2015: those with a driving while intoxicated ("DWI") or driving under the influence ("DUI") incident rose from 23% of applicants in 2012 to a whopping 43% of applicants in 2015. Those with multiple DWIs/DUIs rose from 5% to 18%. (These details are only exacerbated by the fact that nondisclosure of character and fitness issues rose from 30% to 52% in that period.)
It's one thing if law schools, unable or unwilling to reduce class size to meet the shrinking size and quality of the applicant pool, increasingly admit students at risk of failing the bar. But it's another thing if they have been increasingly admitting students with character and fitness issues, too. To date, the American Bar Association, which is tasked with ensuring that law schools maintain a program sufficiently geared toward students who can pass the bar, has not had little to say about individual schools' decisions regarding quality of students. And as far as I know, it has not said anything about character issues. Perhaps other states are experiencing similar problems and have not yet disclosed such data. But it's yet another complication for law school admissions committees in the future.