Paul L. Caron

Friday, March 23, 2018

90% Of Students Pass The Bar Within 2 Years Of Graduation, But 10% Of Law Schools Have Fail Rates > 25%

Inside Higher Ed, A Low Bar for Bar Passage:

Nearly nine out of 10 law school graduates who sat for the bar exam within two years of graduating passed it, according to new data from the American Bar Association.

But more than 10 percent of law schools had at least a quarter of their students fail the exam, and more than one in six schools had rates below 80 percent, the ABA data show.

The new data represent the first time that the ABA has released data for all of its member schools on what it calls the "ultimate" bar passage rate, rather than the one-year rates by which law schools have typically been judged.

Barry Currier, managing director of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which oversees accreditation of law schools, said the change “allows for more current information to be collected and reported,” to help prospective law students better choose schools. “It also gives us a snapshot of how law graduates are doing over a two-year span at each school,” he said.

The ABA, not surprisingly, emphasized the positive in the bar-passage data. The aggregate one-year bar-passage rate for those 2017 graduates who sat for the exam rose to 77.2 percent, up from 74.3 percent in 2016. The one-year rates ranged from 100 percent for Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin at Madison to below 30 percent for Arizona Western Law School and Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

About 40,000 students graduated from the ABA's 202 law schools in 2015. Of those who sat for the bar within two years, the ultimate aggregate pass rate was 87.8 percent. (About 1,100 students did not sit for the exam, and law schools were unable to give the ABA information on about 1,000 more.)

But 24 schools had rates below 75 percent, and another 13 had rates below 80 percent, as seen in the table below.

ABA Journal, New Bar Exam Data Released: Pass Rate Up Almost 3 Percentage Points:

The aggregate first-time bar passage rate for the class of 2017 was 77.2 percent—an increase from 2016, when the first time pass rate was 74.3 percent, according to data released Thursday by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

After a June 2017 change to law school questionnaires, bar passage data—found in this spreadsheet—is now released separately from Standard 509 Information Reports, which were released in December 2017. A goal is reporting timely data to potential students, says Barry Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education.

“This report is not a compliance report for ABA Standard 316, which sets the standard for bar passage. That is a separate and distinct matter. But these reports provide important consumer information for students considering whether and where to attend law school and for others with an interest in legal education,” Currier said in a news release. ...

Currier noted that while results vary by school, the data shows that out of the class of 2015, 87.83 percent of the graduates who sat for a bar exam passed within two years of graduating.

National Jurist, ABA Releases Comprehensive Report On Ultimate Bar Passage Results:

Here are the top 20 law schools with the best overall bar passage rates for the Class of 2015:

  1. Baylor: 100%
  2. Wisconsin: 100%
  3. Pennsylvania: 99.57%
  4. Marquette: 99.55%
  5. Virginia: 99.44%
  6. Yale: 98.97%
  7. Chicago: 98.96%
  8. University of Washington: 98.95%
  9. Stanford: 98.91%
  10. Iowa: 98.50%
  11. Harvard 98.43%
  12. Michigan: 98.28%
  13. Florida: 98.03%
  14. Florida International: 97.87%
  15. Campbell: 97.86%
  16. Connecticut: 97.83%
  17. UC-Berkeley: 97.75%
  18. Kansas: 97.67%
  19. Missouri: 97.58%
  20. Ohio State: 97.53%

Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink


Looking at the bottom of the list, there are few things that stand out.

1. The for-profit law schools are (perhaps not surprisingly) all in the bottom quintile, performing worse that some of the other oft-maligned schools like TJSL and Ave Maria.

2. AccessLex's chosen target of 75% pass rate lines up well with the bottom eighth of the field, when you include Whittier and Valparaiso.

3. Three of the seven DC-area schools are in the bottom quartile for two-year bar passage. Other cities with multiple law schools don't seem to have the same bottom-heavy distribution, though it's not surprising to see a bit of market segmentation in every major metro.

4. Schools that are the only ABA-accredited law schools in their state are also over-represented toward the bottom of the list. Of those thirteen schools, only four are in the top half of schools by bar passage rate and three of them are in the bottom eighth of the field (ie <75% bar pass rate). That's not entirely surprising when you consider their ranking and the fact that market size might influence both sides of the equation, but it still raises challenging questions about the responsibility of all-state schools. New Mexico's >90% pass rate might be setting them up for a reasonably persuasive diploma privilege request, though. If those nine non-passers all went to Texas, it might not be a hard sell.

Posted by: LSAP | Mar 25, 2018 1:38:33 PM