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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Oregon Lowers Bar Exam Cut Score From 284 To 276 (Deans Had Requested 266)

Daily Emerald, Oregon Supreme Court Lowers Bar Passage Standard:

The Oregon Supreme Court recently lowered the required score to pass the state’s bar exam  — the test required for all law graduates to pass in order to become practicing attorneys.

Documents show that in March the deans of Oregon’s three law schools sent a letter to the Board of Bar Examiners (BBX) encouraging them to lower the minimum passing score, citing Oregon’s high standards compared to other states. At the time the letter was sent, Oregon had the third highest minimum score (284) in the country behind Delaware and California.

The deans of Oregon’s three law schools proposed that the score be lowered to 266, but the BBX decided to settle on 276. Vice President of the Faculty Senate Bill Harbaugh says that lowering the requirement will have a significant impact on student’s futures.

“This turns out to be a very big change,” Harbaugh said. “It would have increased the pass rate for July 2016 from the 58 percent it was to 68 percent — meaning 49 people who failed under the old score would have passed had the new score been in place. A score of 266 would have meant 90 extra students passing, raising the pass rate to 78 percent.”

While lowering the score may be advantageous to students taking the exam, some law students are critical of the decision to lower the score. One law student, who wished to remain anonymous given the internal politics of the law school, said that the fundamental issue is that the law school doesn’t prepare students to pass the bar, instead choosing to try to lower the score. ...

Critics of the court’s decision claim that lowering the score will lead to an increased amount of incompetent and underprepared lawyers in the state.

This concern was not ignored by the deans of Oregon’s law schools, who claimed that the bar exam was only one potential filter to deter unqualified attorneys from practicing law.

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