Bar Exam

Jason Song
December 25, 2015

For the second year in a row, the percentage of people who successfully took the summer California bar exam fell to a historic low, with less than 47% passing, according to state statistics. Last year, only 48.6% of those who took the exam made the grade, the first time the passage rate dipped below half in nearly a decade.

California’s decrease is small compared with other states’.

Oklahoma’s bar passage rate fell by 11 points to 68%, and New Mexico’s decreased by 12 percentage points to 72%. The bar is offered twice a year, but traditionally more people take the summer exam.

In California, nearly 8,300 law school alums took this year’s July exam; about 4,700 took the February test.

Several experts said that California makes it harder to pass the bar exam than other states.

The downturn comes as law schools have been struggling to attract students. One recent study found that more campuses have been accepting incoming classes with larger numbers of students with poor LSAT scores. Eight out of California’s 21 nationally accredited law schools recently admitted classes that have a “high,” “very high” or “extreme” number of prospective attorneys who have a poor chance of passing the bar based on their LSAT scores, according to the study by Law School Transparency, an advocacy group.

LSAT scores are a key predictor of bar performance, according to research, although some school administrators say performance on the 180-point standardized test isn’t a sign of future success.

At the same time, many alumni are unable to find jobs in the legal profession after graduation, administrators say. As a result, some schools, including Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and UC Hastings have cut class size to try to maintain quality.

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