Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Number Who Passed February Bar Exam Up to 40 Percent
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Forty percent of the 4,520 applicants who took the February California bar examination passed it, the Committee of Bar Examiners has reported.
The pass rate was up from the February 2005 exam, which 35.3 percent passed, according to a preliminary analysis released Friday by the committee. Just over 28 percent of those who took the exam were doing so for the first time, and 54.4 percent of them achieved a passing score, the committee said.
The first-timer pass rate was 57.7 percent for applicants who attended ABA-approved law schools in California and 58 percent for applicants from ABA-approved schools outside the state, both figures being up from last year. The committee separately accredits some non-ABA California law schools, and 25.9 percent of the first-time applicants from those institutions passed, a drop from last February.
The pass rate on the February bar exam is usually lower than that for the July exam, since many of those who fail the July exam repeat it in February. The number of people taking the February exam is also typically much smaller.
More than 8,000 applicants took the July 2004 exam, and the passing rate was 48.2 percent, the lowest rate for the summer examination in at least 18 years.
For the 3,239 applicants repeating the bar exam in February, the passing rates were 34.4 percent overall, 42.9 percent for applicants from California ABA-approved law schools, 37.6 percent for applicants from ABA schools outside of California, and 18.7 percent for applicants from schools accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners, which is a part of the State Bar of California.
All of those percentages were up from last year.
The bar examination consists of a multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination, six essay questions, and two performance tests that are designed to assess an applicant’s ability to apply general legal knowledge to practical tasks.
The MBE is a nationwide test, and the mean scaled MBE score for the California exam was higher than the national average for the February 2005 exam, as it typically is. For the February 2005 administration, the mean scaled MBE score in California was 1406, compared with a national average of 1377.
California also administers an attorneys’ examination, which consists of the essay and performance test sections of the bar exam and is open to lawyers who have been admitted to the active practice of law in good standing for at least four years in another jurisdiction. The committee reported that 376 lawyers took that exam in February and 205 of them passed.
The full pass list appeared in a supplement to yesterday’s MetNews and is now available on the State Bar’s website at www.calbar.org.
Successful applicants who have satisfied other requirements for admission—those who have not been reported by local district attorneys for being in arrears with family or child support payments, who have received positive moral character determinations and who have received a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination—may be sworn in individually or participate in admissions ceremonies held throughout the state during June.
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 5,521 first-time applicants who took the exam last summer, 62.8 percent passed. Of the 2,541 repeaters, 16.6 percent passed.
The pass rates continue to be highest for students from law schools approved by the American Bar Association. Rates were 69.4 percent for first-timers who went to ABA-approved schools in Californiaódown slightly from last year’s 71.5 percent; 65.8 percent for graduates of ABA schools in other statesóan increase of 0.2 percent over last year; 23.5 percent for graduates of non-ABA-approved schools that are accredited by the Committee of Bar Examinersóa two percent drop; and 9.1 percent for applicants from unaccredited schools, a drop of nearly six percent.
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.
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, an additional 131 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 thirty-eight lawyers took that exam this year, for a passage rate of 38.8 percent, down from 45.5 percent a year ago.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company