ABA Considers Shift in Rule on Bar Passage Rates

July 22, 2011

A special panel of the American Bar Association is considering a proposal to raise the average bar passage rates required for law schools to be accredited, The National Law Journal reported. Currently, law schools must have at least 75 percent of graduates pass the bar exam in at least three of the past five years. Alternatively, a law school can show that its first-time bar-passage rate is no more than 15 percent below those of other ABA schools in the same state during three of the past five years. (Bar passage rates vary from state to state.) A new proposal would require that at least 80 percent of graduates pass the bar exam in three of the past five years, or that first-time bar-passage rates be no more than 10 percent below other law schools in the same state. Advocates for the change say that the current requirement is too low. Advocates for more racial and ethnic diversity in law school classes are opposing the proposal, arguing that it will discourage law schools from recruiting students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and who may be at higher risk of failing the bar exam.

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