Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


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State Bar Reports Lower Pass Rate for February Bar Exam


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Forty-one percent of the 4,419 applicants who took the February California bar examination passed it, the Committee of Bar Examiners reported.

The pass rate is 1.2 percent less than last year’s, but marks the third straight year that the figure is above 40 percent, after eight straight years of falling below that mark.

Thirty-one percent of those who took the exam in February this year were doing so for the first time, and 52 percent of them achieved a passing score, down slightly from 53 percent last year and 55 percent the year before.

The first-timer pass rate was 60 percent for applicants who attended ABA-approved law schools in California—down from 62 percent last year and 64 percent in 2011—and 49 percent for applicants from ABA-approved schools outside the state, a point higher than last year.

The committee separately accredits some non-ABA California law schools, and 25 percent of the first-time applicants from those institutions passed. That figure is down from 34 percent last year and 27 percent the year before.

The pass rate on the February bar exam is historically 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.

The pass rate on the February exam went into steady decline after 48 percent passed in 1997. It dropped to 33.4 percent, the lowest in over a decade, in 2002, and ran between 35 and 40 percent between 2003 and 2010.

For the 3,048 applicants repeating the bar exam in February, the passing rates were 36 percent overall, 50 percent for applicants from California ABA-approved law schools, 39 percent for applicants from ABA schools outside of California and 17 percent for applicants from schools accredited only by the State Bar.

The State Bar-only figure is eight percent less than last year, while the other figures are the same as or within one percent of last year’s results.

The committee also gave pass rates for unaccredited schools, divided into three categories.

Fourteen percent of first-time takers from unaccredited “fixed facility” schools passed—there were none last year—while 12 percent of repeaters from those schools passed. For correspondence schools, the rates were 42 percent for first-timers, but only 16 percent for repeaters; for “distance learning” schools, the numbers were 29 percent for first-timers and nine percent for repeat distance learners.

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 exam, as it typically is.

The mean scaled MBE score in California was 1411, compared with a national average of 1380, both figures being down slightly compared with last year.

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 460 lawyers took that exam in February and 230 of them passed.

Those included 20 lawyers who took the exam as a prerequisite to reinstatement following discipline. Only three of them passed.

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 next month.

A list of successful applicants appears as a supplement to today’s MetNews.


Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company