Tuesday, November 20, 2007
State Bar Pass Rate Tops 56 Percent for Second Time This Decade
Pass Rate Goes Up, Number of Test-Takers Goes Down
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The pass rate for the July 2007 general State Bar examination was 56.1 percent, the highest since 2001, the State Bar announced.
The Committee of Bar Examiners, in a report issued late Friday, said that a total of 8,151 applicants—about 800 fewer than last year—took the test, and 4,571 passed.
The pass rate is the second highest this decade, and the third highest in 12 years. A total of 56.9 percent passed in 2001, and 62.1 percent passed in 1997.
The pass rate on the July 2006 exam was 51.8 percent.
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 appears in a supplement to today’s MetNews.
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 6,040 first-time applicants who took the exam last summer, 69 percent passed, compared to first-timer pass rates of 67 percent last year, 63 percent the year before, and 62 percent in 2004. Of the 2,111 repeaters—about 500 fewer than last year—19 percent passed, up from 15 percent last year and 12.7 percent the year before.
The pass rates continue to be highest for students from law schools approved by the American Bar Association.
Rates were 76 percent for first-timers who went to ABA-approved schools in California, 67 percent for graduates of ABA schools in other states, 32 percent for graduates of non-ABA-approved schools that are accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners, and 21 percent for applicants from unaccredited schools.
The percentage for unaccredited schools is up from 12 percent last year, while the percentages for the other categories are about the same.
Gayle Murphy, State Bar senior executive for admissions, explained that because the exam is scaled, changes in the pass rate cannot be attributed to variations in the difficulty of the exam. The increase this year, she said, suggests that “the students were better prepared.”
That is the most likely explanation, Murphy said, for the spike in success among students from unaccredited schools. The number of test-takers in that category, she commented, is so small that a slight increase in the number who pass will cause a boost of several percentage points.
Twenty-eight percent of repeat test-takers from in-state ABA-approved schools passed, compared with 21 percent of applicants from such schools in other states, nine percent from non-ABA schools accredited in California, and eight percent from unaccredited schools. All of those figures are higher than last year.
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, 125 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-five lawyers took that exam this year, for a passage rate of 37.3 percent, up from 35.7 percent last year and 28.3 percent the year before.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company