Bar Exam

Legal Ed data shows decrease in first-time bar pass rates

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For first-time bar exam takers in 2022, the aggregate pass rate was 78.33%, according to data released Friday by the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

Among people who took a bar exam for the first time in 2021, the pass rate was 80.28%, according to a news release. Both percentages include people admitted to practice through diploma privilege. For 2022 first-time test takers, if you take out diploma privilege admits, the number drops to 73.87%, the release states.

The data also details two-year bar passage rates, which this year is 91.44%, based on 2020 graduates. For last year, which was based on 2019 graduates, the two-year pass rate was 91.27%, according to the news release.

To be in compliance with Standard 316, law schools should have a bar passage rate of at least 75% within a two-year time period. However, Bill Adams, managing director of ABA accreditation and legal education, in the news release noted that the data release is for consumer information, and “is not a compliance report for ABA Standard 316.”

The standard was revised in May 2019 amid much criticism. A guidance memo was published the same year. A school demonstrating “good cause” could justify a time extension beyond the two-year period, according to the memo. Examples given include temporary circumstances a law school can’t control, academic transfers and a school’s effort to provide broader access to legal education, coupled with a showing the school maintained academic rigor.

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