LEGAL EDUCATION

Bar passage rates improve for ABA-approved law schools

Feb. 24, 2020

Data released Feb. 18 by the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar indicate that 9 of 10 recent law graduates are passing state licensing exams within two years, and the first-time bar passage rate jumped 5 percentage points over the previous year.

Accredited law school bar passage rates are collected and published annually by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar

Accredited law school bar passage rates are collected and published annually by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar

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That’s good news for the 200 law schools nationally accredited by the section’s Council under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education. Last year, a simplified and stronger bar passage threshold, known as Standard 316, took effect that requires 75% of a school’s graduates who sit for the bar to pass it within two years.

Approximately 5% of the ABA-approved law schools nationally fell short of the threshold and could be asked to develop plans to achieve compliance within two years.

Barry Currier, the managing director for ABA accreditation and legal education, said the report provides “important consumer information for students considering whether and where to attend law school and for others with an interest in legal education.”

Specifically, the new data shows that collectively 89.5% of 2017 law graduates who sat for a bar exam passed it within two years of graduation. The two-year “ultimate” aggregate success rate is slightly better than the 88.64% comparable figure for 2016 graduates. First-time takers in 2019 achieved an aggregate 79.64% pass rate, which is nearly a 5-percentage point increase over the comparable 74.83% pass rate from a year earlier.

Currier believes there is “no other single outcome that better measures whether a law school is offering a rigorous program of legal education” than a school’s bar passage rate, which is collected and published annually by the Council. 

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