The Continuing Decline Of Bar Exam Pass Rates

States have been reporting their (generally lower) bar pass rates from the July examination, and the debate about what is the cause and what should be done is intensifying. In that vein, the NYTimes Room for Debate asks, Is the Bar Too Law to Get Into Law School?

Bar exam scores have declined over the past few years, and last summer, graduates had some of the lowest scores in a decade. This years scores could be even worse. The National Conference of Bar Examiners, which creates and scores the multistate, multiple-choice portion of the exam, maintains that the quality of incoming law students has declined, while many law professors blame the bar exam itself.

Why are so many law students failing the bar exam?

A variety of debaters weighed in on the matter with advice to the ABA to create a more meaningful exam and law schools to better prepare their students.

One debater noted that the incoming students have weaker credentials, and another opined that the bar exam should be dropped altogether.

And still another said that while we do have a shrinking pool of lawyers, they are as committed as ever.

It's likely a combination of all of these things and the addition of a 7th topic to the MBE portion. It's difficult to assess exactly how to fix these issues, especially when bar exam results tie into US News rankings and, generally, the ability to find employment, which also affects rankings.

As one debater noted:
It is imperative, however, that law schools not overreact to the bar exam decline by limiting access to legal education. Instead, let’s keep the door open and provide the support students need to succeed in law school and at the bar, as well as to serve the public in and outside of the legal profession.


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