Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Page 1


July Bar Exam Pass Rate Under 50 Percent for Third Straight Year


By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts


Fewer than half of those who took the July 2005 general California bar exam passed, the State Bar reported, marking the third consecutive year in which that was true.

The Committee of Bar Examiners, in a report issued late Friday, said that a total of 8,343 applicants—about 300 more than last year—took the test and 4.072, or 48.8 percent, passed.

That percentage is up from last year’s 48.2 percent, which was the lowest rate for the summer examination in at least 18 years. The pass rate for 2003 was 49.4 percent; the last year in which a majority passed was 2002, when 50.5 percent achieved the required scores.

The test is given twice each year to law school graduates and a handful of others who are eligible to sit for the test. The full pass list appeared in a supplement in yesterday’s MetNews and is now available on the State Bar’s website at

Other Hurdles

Passing the exam does not by itself guarantee admission to the bar. Prospective lawyers must also pass a separate professional responsibility exam, receive a positive determination of moral character, and show that they have not been reported by local district attorneys for being in arrears in child support payments.

Successful applicants who meet all of those criteria may attend oath ceremonies, which will be held in various locations around the state, or may make private arrangements to be sworn in immediately by a state court judge or commissioner, a Court of Appeal or Supreme Court justice, a notary public, a shorthand court reporter, a member of the Legislature, a county officer or a member of the State Bar Board of Governors.

Applicants in the military may be sworn in by their commanding officers, and applicants in foreign countries may take the oath from the U.S. consul.

Pass rates are typically much lower for applicants who have taken the test before and higher for first-timers.

Of the 5,909 first-time applicants who took the exam last summer, 63.7 percent passed, a slight increase from last year’s 62 percent. Of the 2,434 repeaters, 12.7 percent passed, compared to 16.6 percent last year.

The pass rates continue to be highest for students from law schools approved by the American Bar Association. Rates were 70 percent for first-timers who went to ABA-approved schools in California, 65 percent for graduates of ABA schools in other states, 26 percent for graduates of non-ABA-approved schools that are accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners, and eight percent for applicants from unaccredited schools.

All of those figures, except for unaccredited schools, are the same as or higher than last year. The pass rate for first-timers from unaccredited schools was nine percent last year and 15 percent the year before.

Eighteen percent of repeat test-takers from in-state ABA-approved schools passed, compared with 12 percent of out-of-state applicants from such schools, seven percent from non-ABA schools accredited in California, and five percent from unaccredited schools.

Some applicants were not allotted to a law school because more than a year passed between graduation and the exam. Others studied with attorneys or judges and did not attend law schools, or took correspondence courses.

February Exam

The examination is also administered in late February each year. Fewer applicants, many of whom have previously failed, take that exam and passage rates on it are usually lower.

In addition to the applicants passing the general bar examination, 92  lawyers already admitted to practice in other states passed a two-day version of the test, including the essay and “performance” portion but omitting the multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination. Lawyers must have actively practiced at least four years in another jurisdiction to take the attorney exam.

Three hundred twenty-five lawyers took that exam this year, for a passage rate of 28.3 percent, down from 38.8 percent last year and 45.5 percent in 2003.


Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company