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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

California Bar Exam Pass Rate Sinks To All-Time Low: 27.3%

California Bar ExamState Bar of California Releases Results of the February 2018 Bar Exam:

Today the State Bar of California released the results of the February 2018 California Bar Exam, and announced that 1,282 people (27.3 percent of applicants) passed the General Bar Exam.

CA Bar

Sacramento Bee, A Bar Too High? Pass Rate Plummets to Record Low for California Lawyer Exam:

Only a quarter of applicants passed the California bar exam in its most recent sitting, the State Bar of California announced this week, a record low for the test that lawyers must successfully complete to practice in the state.

The pass rate for the February exam sank to just 27.3 percent, about 7 percentage points lower than last year and the first time since 1986 that it has fallen below 30 percent. The previous low, according to a summary of results since 1951, came in the spring of 1983, when 27.7 percent of applicants passed.

In a statement Friday, executive director Leah T. Wilson said the State Bar recently launched an intervention program to "improve performance on the bar exam" and "better understand the downward trend of the bar exam pass rates." It is also preparing to complete a study about the needs of entry-level lawyers, in order to evaluate the exam standards. ...

California sets a higher cutoff score for its bar exam than any state except Delaware, and it frequently has the lowest pass rate in the country. Critics have long contended that it is unnecessarily restrictive, keeping otherwise qualified individuals out of the legal profession, particularly women and minorities.

Several law school deans last year called on the state to reduce the score. But in October, the California Supreme Court declined, noting that the pass rate has fluctuated over time and recent drops appeared to be part of a "broader national pattern." ...

Last July, after the test was shortened from three days to two, the pass rate jumped nearly 7 points to 49.6 percent, reversing a three-year slide. The July 2016 pass rate of 43 percent was the worst ever for the summer exam.

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Comments

Geez oh gosh, it's almost as if law schools gutting their historic admissions standards has a deleterious effect on bar passage rates when those new, academically lesser classes sit for it.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 20, 2018 2:51:54 PM

Since whites are now a minority in California, it's nice to see critics are concerned they are being unfairly kept out of the legal profession.

Posted by: Actual Lawyer | May 21, 2018 7:21:22 AM

Given the unexpected improvement in July bar passage rates YoY, I think it is clear that schools tried to bury the bodies by pushing poor performing grads into the February administration. In any event, these results are inexcusable, and purely a product of admitting unqualified applicants.

Posted by: JM | May 21, 2018 8:49:45 AM

Unemployed Northeastern, maybe the reason you can't get hired as a lawyer is because you believe that you are "superior" simply because you excel at standardized test taking. If you are trying to practice law in the same manner that is REQUIRED to pass the CA Bar, then you are COMMITTING MALPRACTICE btw.

Posted by: sarah | May 21, 2018 10:12:44 AM

The bar exam is a minimal equivalency exam. If the California bar is to difficult, then go east (just not too far because FL, NY, and NJ have low passage rates, as well). There is no right to practice law. Failing to get over such a relatively low hurdle is a pretty strong indicator that practicing Law may not be for you. Making excuses for not getting over that hurdle confirms the matter in my mind. The practice of law is brutual and requires far more grit, determination, and aptitude than a mere bar exam.

Sarah I’m not sure you understand what malpractice is and putting it in CAPS dosent make your point any clearer.

There are enough lawyers, the bar exam should be more difficult across the board.

Posted by: UF LLM | May 21, 2018 3:46:45 PM

Sick burn, except I've never claimed to be superior to any other lawyer. My handle rather suggests the opposite, actually.

"If you are trying to practice law in the same manner that is REQUIRED to pass the CA Bar, then you are COMMITTING MALPRACTICE btw. "

If the aliens stopped putting chemtrails in my vaccines I could make more coherent points too.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 21, 2018 7:10:38 PM