Tuesday, December 11, 2012

More than half of New York law schools saw bar passage rates drop this year.

The overall percentage of first time bar takers for New York's July exam is still quite good at 85% though it represents a drop of one percent from the year before.  I was always under the impression that the overall bar pass rate for New York was much lower; that it was a much more difficult exam.  But apparently that's not the case.  Still, among the eight schools that saw their bar pass rate drop this year, even if only slightly, administrators are concerned enough that some schools will form a "task force" or engage in similar self-reflection to figure out what they can do by way of curricular reform or program changes to boost student bar scores.  As the competition for good applicants gets more fierce in light of declining law school applications, so too does the pressure on  schools outside the very elite to maintain above average bar pass rates.  The New York Law Journal has the story.

Eight Law Schools Post Lower Bar Pass Rates

In a reversal from last year, eight of New York state's 15 law schools have reported lower pass rates for first-time candidates who took the July bar exam. In 2011, eight schools reported improved pass rates over the prior year.

This year's turn-around resulted in the state's first-time candidate average pass rate dropping one percentage point, to 85 percent.

With its 70 percent pass rate for the July exam, New York Law School experienced the most precipitous plunge this year, down 10 percentage points from 2011.

The result dropped New York Law to last place among the state's law schools, a full 4 percentage points behind 14th place Touro Law Center.

Anthony Crowell, who was named dean of New York Law in May after teaching there as an adjunct for nine years, said he was "very disappointed" with the exam results.

"No new dean wants to come into office with this kind of news," he said. "This is not what I would have expected of the school and I know that the school is better than this, the students are better than this."

To improve pass rates going forward, Crowell said he has formed an 11-member task force called "Foundations for Success." The committee, he said, will conduct "a top-to-bottom review" of the class that took the July exam as well as previous classes, and will evaluate the school's programs to ensure that students are offered as much "counseling and support as possible."

For example, he said, each student preparing for the July 2013 exam "will have an individualized coaching and counseling plan. That to me is critical."

. . . .

Touro Law, for example, reported the second biggest percentage decline this year, to 74 percent from 83 percent last year. The result dropped the school to the #14 slot from #9.

Patricia Salkin, who became dean of Touro Law earlier this year, called the rate "disappointing."

. . . .

Touro Law, she added, plans to "redouble our efforts" to ensure more students take advantage of "bar preparation supports."

With its 83 percent pass rate, St. John's University School of Law dipped below the state average for the first time in several years. Last year, the school posted an 88 percent pass rate.

Noting that "bar passage has always been a strength of St. John's," Dean Michael Simons said that to keep the pass rate up, the school earlier this semester began a new initiative focused on preparing the most at-risk students for the exam.

"I am optimistic that effort will bear fruit in the years to come," he said.



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