April 23, 2021

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

CHICAGO, April 23, 2021 —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. 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.

The information was reported to the ABA by the 197 law schools accepting new students and is being made public as a matter of consumer information consistent with Standard 509 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools.

The new data shows that in the aggregate, 89.99% of 2018 law graduates who sat for a bar exam passed it within two years of graduation (90.10% with Diploma Privilege). The two-year “ultimate” aggregate success rate is slightly better than the 89.47% comparable figure for 2017 graduates. The 2018 ultimate bar pass data also reveals that 94.98% of all graduates sat for a bar exam within two years of graduation, and that schools were able to obtain bar passage information from 98.84% of 2018 graduates.

First-time takers in 2020 achieved an aggregate 82.83% pass rate (83.66% with Diploma Privilege), which is a 3-percentage point increase over the comparable 79.64% pass rate for 2019. Diploma Privilege considers those waived into the practice of law without taking the bar because of special rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As noted in previous years, 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 and is a separate and distinct matter,” said Bill Adams, managing director for ABA accreditation and legal education. “These reports over the years have provided important consumer information for students considering whether and where to attend law school and for others with an interest in legal education.”

The collection of this data requires a considerable investment of time and resources by individual law schools. Adams said a school’s bar passage rate is one of the best measures for whether a law school is offering a rigorous program of legal education to those students whom the school has determined are likely capable of completing the J.D. program and being admitted to the bar.

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