The American Bar Association’s legal education arm has released two batches of data in recent weeks showing that bar passage rates overall are relatively stable although whites nationwide are still passing the bar exam at a higher rate than minority law school graduates. Also among first-time test takers, data show a growing gap in pass rates between whites and other minorities.
The statistics, reported by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, captures data compiled by the 196 ABA-approved law schools. The reports provide “ultimate” bar passage rates — or pass rates within two years — for all students. Similar data are also broken down by race, ethnicity and gender.
Overall, 91.44% of 2020 law graduates who took the bar exam passed it within two years of graduation. The two-year aggregate success rate is slightly better than the 91.27% comparable figure for 2019 graduates.
The most recent report covering race, ethnicity and gender shows that 94% of whites passed the bar within two years of graduation. This compares to 81% of Blacks, 88% of Hispanics and 89% of Asians. All pass rates essentially matched the rates of the previous year.
ABA-approved law schools are required to have 75% of their graduates who take the bar examination pass it within two years of their graduation or the law schools could be found out of compliance. The data on first-time takers is to provide consumer information and has no bearing on compliance.
“Several years ago, we promised to collect and publish such aggregate data and consider whether the requirements needed to be reviewed in light of what we collected,” said Bill Adams, ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education. “We will continue to evaluate the annual data and consider any changes as appropriate.”
The council, or governing board of the section, is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accreditor of law schools. In that capacity, the council serves as an independent arm of the ABA.
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