High Percentage of Grads Pass Bar Within 2 Years, ABA Says (1)

Feb. 18, 2020, 10:07 PM; Updated: Feb. 18, 2020, 10:52 PM

Almost 90% of graduates of accredited law schools passed a bar exam within two years of graduation, the American Bar Association said in a new report.

Some 203 ABA-approved law schools report to the lawyers’ association the exam outcomes for their graduates, who must pass a bar exam to qualify for a license to become a practicing attorney.

Lower rates of passage in recent years in some states have sparked concern about whether law schools are adequately equipping graduates to pass the entry exam.

The ABA now requires that 75 percent of law school graduates pass a bar exam within two years of graduation.

In publicly releasing the bar passage rates, the ABA underlined that release of the data was separate from any action on accreditation that it might take.

Public release of bar passage rates is “important consumer information for students considering whether and where to attend law schools and for others with an interest in legal education,” said Barry Currier, managing director of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education.

There is “no other single outcome that better measures whether a law school is offering a rigorous program of legal education to a group of students that the school has determined through its admissions process are likely capable of completing the J.D. program and being admitted to the bar,” he added in a statement.

Overall, the reporting law schools found that 89.5% of their 2017 law graduates who sat for a bar exam passed it within two years of graduation. That rate was slightly higher than the comparable figure of 88.6% for 2016 graduates.

According to the ABA data, there are 11 law schools which did not reach the 75 percent minimum bar passage for 2017 graduates. Florida Coastal School of Law, in Jacksonville, which had been tangling with the ABA over its accreditation, reported a 67.2% passage rate for its 214 grads from 2017 who took a bar exam. Some of the other schools included the Charleston School of Law, at 72.1%; the University of South Dakota, at 67.2%; and Western Michigan University, at 66%.

(Adds details of report throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson in Washington at egolson1@gmail.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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