April 19, 2019

ABA Section of Legal Education releases comprehensive report on bar passage data

CHICAGO, April 19, 2019 —The Managing Director’s Office of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar released today a comprehensive set of data on bar passage outcomes for American Bar Association-approved law schools.

That data shows that in the aggregate 88.57 percent of law graduates in 2016 who sat for a bar exam within two years of graduating have passed a bar exam. That two-year “ultimate” aggregate success rate is substantially the same as the outcome for those who graduated in 2015, where the ultimate pass rate was 88.49 percent. The 2016 ultimate bar pass data also reveals that 97 percent of all graduates had sat for a bar exam within two years of graduation and that schools were able to track 98.5 percent of graduates.  

First-time takers in 2018 achieved a 74.82 percent pass rate, which compares to a 77.34 percent pass rate for 2017. Spreadsheets are available on the section’s webpage under Legal Education Statistics, which report these outcomes on a school-by-school basis and in more detail.

“This information was reported to the ABA by law schools and is being made public as a matter of consumer information under the authority of ABA Standard 509,” said Barry Currier, the section’s managing director. “This report is not a compliance report for ABA Standard 316, which establishes bar exam outcomes that a law school must achieve under the accreditation standards, which is a separate and distinct matter. The public reports do provide important consumer information for students considering whether and where to attend law school and for others with an interest in legal education.”

Outcomes vary by school. The data also suggests that the “ultimate” pass rates – the rate of bar passage achieved within the time frame regardless of the number of attempts – show that aggregate and school-specific outcomes do increase significantly with additional tests over the first two-years after graduation. For example, the aggregate first-time pass rate reported for 2016 was 74.3 percent. That success rate rose to 88.57 percent within two years.

The collection of this data requires a considerable investment of time and resources by law schools. There is, however, 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. “The council very much appreciates the work that law schools do to gather and report these outcomes,” Currier added.

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