Bar Exam

Texas law school serving at-risk students achieves 59% bar pass rate

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The University of North Texas Dallas College of Law, which opened in 2014 to help students with lower admission credentials gain law licenses, had a 59.3 percent pass rate for the July 2017 Texas bar exam, its first graduating class.

For the July 2017 Texas bar exam, 59 UNT Dallas College of Law graduates took the test and 35 passed, according to a statistics sheet released by the state supreme court’s board of law examiners. A total of 2,959 Texas law grads candidates sat for that exam, and the overall pass rate was 71.78 percent.

Florida lawyer David Frakt, in a Nov 8 post at The Faculty Lounge blog, noted: “Although UNT is to be commended for keeping the cost of law school as low as possible, if over 40 percent of its graduates fail the bar, it’s no bargain.”

Still, UNT Law’s July 2017 bar pass rate was higher than that of several other U.S. law schools, and not all bar results have been released. The University of Massachusetts School of Law Dartmouth, another public school, received full ABA accreditation in December 2016. For the July 2017 Massachusetts state bar exam, the school’s overall pass rate was 58 percent (25/43) and pass rate for first-time test takers was 75 percent (24/32), according to a statistics sheet (PDF) released by the state’s board of bar examiners.

The ABA’s accreditation committee in August 2016 recommended that UNT Dallas College of Law not receive accreditation, said Royal Furgeson, a retired U.S. district court judge and the founding dean of UNT Dallas College of Law. According to him, that was because the law school admitted a large number of students with low LSAT scores, and there was concern about those students being able to pass the bar exam. The law school appealed the decision, and the council of ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in November 2016 notified the law school that it had sent its application back to the accreditation committee for additional review.

The council at its June 2017 meeting granted provisional accreditation to the law school. According to a law school press release announcing the decision, there were 74 students in the graduating class.

Furgeson announced in October that he would be stepping down from the dean position in June 2018. He did not respond to an ABA Journal request for comment Thursday.

But in August 2016 said that curriculum at his school is different. The courses have multiple exams, including midterms, he said, and some have assessments after each class. He also noted that professors taught to the bar exam, and if a student seemed to be struggling, the school would intervene.

“We know some of our students are at risk, and we want to identify them properly and give them the academic support they need,” he said. “People can be taught these things in a three-year period. We have a very mindful program of how important it is to get these students ready to pass the bar—surely that can make a difference.”

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