NEW YORK, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Eight of New York's 15
ABA-accredited law schools reported increased passage rates for
first-time takers of the July 2011 bar examination compared
with 2010. One school reported the same rate as 2010.
Last year only one school reported a higher rate than the
previous year, while three reported equivalent rates.
Repeating last year's pattern, Columbia and NYU had the
highest passage rates, with 96 percent each, followed by
Cornell with 92 percent. Fordham and Cardozo, tied for fourth
place with 90 percent, each improved their standing.
CUNY School of Law had the biggest percentage-point drop
from last year, declining six points from 73 percent to 67
"We are disappointed in the results," said Michelle J.
Anderson, dean of CUNY School of Law, in an emailed statement.
"We are taking several steps to improve them while maintaining
our commitment to enhance access to the legal profession for
Syracuse Law, which last year suffered a 17
percentage-point drop from the previous year's results,
recovered 12 percentage points this year.
The statewide passage rate for the July 2011 exam was 86
percent, unchanged from 2010, but a decline from 91 percent in
2008. The rate fell to a low of 76 percent in 2002 and 2003.
'IT COULD BE BETTER'
Legal education experts said that this year's results were
"There was some progress, but there is still a failure by
many schools to raise their scores," said Mary Campbell
Gallagher, a New York-based bar exam expert and consultant. "A
lot of candidates from schools at the bottom still aren't
Candidates' LSAT scores and law school grade-point averages
help predict passage rates at individual schools, said Douglas
Rush, a professor at Saint Louis University who specializes in
legal education. Exam performance can also fluctuate according
to the difficulty of the exam and quality of candidates'
preparation in logic, reasoning and test-taking skills, Rush
Schools can improve passage rates by identifying at-risk
students early in their studies and assisting them with
test-taking skills, Rush added.
At least one school, Touro Law, which saw the largest
percentage-point gain from 2010 to 2011 among reporting
schools, said it has taken this approach. Its passage rate
jumped six points, from 77 percent in 2010 to 83 percent this
"I am always cautious commenting on any single year's
results, but 83 percent is very good," said Lawrence Raful,
Touro Law's dean. "Of course, it could be better."
Raful ascribed the improvement to three factors: students'
hard work and early focus on the exam, the law school's
targeted courses on bar-related subjects, including New York
civil procedure, and a one-on-on tutorial program for students
most in need of help. The program, which employs Touro alums to
assist up to 30 students each summer, was put into place
several years ago.
"The tutorials have really helped," Raful said. "Some
students understand the material but need help with the
presentation. You have to know how to write a good topic
sentence and short paragraphs for the bar review graders."
(Reporting by Moira Herbst)
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(An earlier version of this story reported that the
statewide passage rate for the July 2008 bar exam was 90
percent. It was 91 percent. The story also incorrectly reported
that the 2005 passage rate was 76 percent; it was 81 percent.)