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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Syracuse Faculty Attribute 92% Bar Pass Rate To Requiring Nine Courses For Students With GPAs < 2.5, Repeating 1L Courses For Students < 2.2 GPA

Syracuse (2018)The Daily Orange, Professors: First-year Curriculum May be Reason for Improved College of Law’s Bar Exam Pass Rate:

About 92 percent of Syracuse University College of Law graduates passed the state bar exam this summer, the university recently announced, marking a two-decade high pass rate.

Seven years ago, in 2010, SU’s College of Law had the lowest bar exam pass rate in New York after just about 70 percent of graduates passed the test — 16 percent lower than the state’s average that year, Syracuse.com reported.

A new law curriculum could be part of the reason why the college’s pass rate has improved, two professors said. ...

Greg Germain, a professor of law, who said he was speaking as a faculty member and not on behalf of the school, believes the improved pass rate could be attributed to the creation of a structured curriculum for students with a GPA below 2.5, he said in an email. Those students represent the bottom 25 percent of the class, Germain said.

“About four years ago, many members of the faculty became concerned about the low bar passage rate of our students in relation to our peer law schools,” Germain said. “The college hired a statistics expert to perform a statistical analysis to see if we could find what student attributes correlated with bar passage.” That expert found an “extremely high” statistical correlation between first-year grades and bar passage, Germain said. This review led to the development of curriculum for students at risk of failing the exam, the professor said.

The curriculum requires students to take eight upper division courses on material frequently part of the bar exam and a course on foundational bar exam skills. ... The curriculum also generally requires students with a GPA below 2.2 to “repeat the highly-tested first year courses in which they had received very low grades,” Germain said. ... “I felt that we had to try to improve the performance of the people in the bottom of the class by forcing them to focus on the fundamentals,” Germain said.

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Comments

One almost laments for the days of "Look to your left, look to your right; one of you won't make it to graduation." Perhaps if your law students can't muster a 2.2, they shouldn't remain your law students. Oh, right - the school reduced matriculants by 20% to 40% in recent years to keep their historic uGPA/LSAT stats level(ish), and had to TRIPLE their median discount since 2011 to boot ($8,400/year to $24,000/year). So revenue is the reason. Because of course it is. And a high bar passage rate is tempered quite a bit by the mere 60% of graduates who manage to find long-term, full-time, license-required jobs at any salary within ten months of graduation. Hey, that means Syracuse has a 2.2GPA when it comes to getting its graduates real jobs in the legal profession; what irony! A full third of Syracuse's bar passers find their licenses to be but a scrap of paper that they must pay a few hundred dollars per year to keep.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 21, 2017 11:04:05 AM

I went to a law school that didn't teach to the bar because the expectation was that students were smart enough to study for and pass the bar after graduation. That assumption was largely correct; we had one of the highest bar passage rates in a state loaded with law schools. But we all knew who the week students were and who was likely to need additional help. Now, with the quality of the student pool declining, I am not sure my law school can just rely on its students to grind it out in May, June and July while focusing heavily on theory. The Syracuse model seems like a no-brainer to me for all schools near the bottom of the first tier and below.

Posted by: HTA | Nov 22, 2017 11:02:01 AM