Bar Passage Rates a Concern

New York Times writer Elizabeth Olson reported earlier this week that, “The American Bar Association’s (ABA) accrediting body put law schools on notice Monday that it intended to tighten a rule that sets a deadline for graduates to pass state bar exams — a near-universal requirement for becoming a practicing lawyer.

“The new measure would clarify the existing deadline that 75 percent of students pass within two years. Bar passage rates have been falling noticeably across the country.

“At issue for the schools is their accreditation by the association. The theory behind the rule, which is one factor in accreditation, is that schools should be accepting students who are likely to have the qualifications to become practicing lawyers. Proponents of the change say that schools exploit students when they accept those who — based on admissions tests and other measurements — have a small chance of succeeding.”

The article added that, “Bar exam passage rates have been dropping in big states including California, New York, Florida and New Jersey. Georgia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia also were stung by lower passage rates after the July 2015 exam. The bar exam is also given in February, but most graduates take it the summer after their graduation from law school.

“The bar passage rate in California, for example, sank last year to its lowest point since 1986. In New York, the overall passage rate for test takers last July was at its lowest point since 2004. Florida’s rate also dropped slightly, although other big states like New Jersey had steady overall passage rates.”

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