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Bar Exam Pass Rate Slides Even Lower in February.

Only 48 percent of the 127 would-be lawyers who took the Arkansas Bar Examination in February passed, according to Chris Thomas, secretary to the state Board of Law Examiners.

The pass rate was pulled down by the predictably poor performance of test- takers who had already failed the bar at least once. In February, there were virtually as many repeat test-takers (63) as first-timers (64).

But even among the first-timers, the pass rate was 62.5 percent -- well below the historical pass rate of 75-80 percent for first-timers, Thomas said.

The overall pass rate on the February test last year was 50 percent. At the time, the chairman of the Board of Bar Examiners, Blair Arnold of Batesville, called it "the lowest rate I know of."

For the bar exam administered in July 1999, the pass rate among all 237 candidates was back up to 69 percent, and the pass rate for first-timers was almost 78 percent. At that sitting, almost three-quarters of the candidates were taking the bar exam for the first time, which contributed to the higher overall pass rate.

Thomas said he had no idea why the February pass rate would be so low.

"It's important to remember there's a very small number of people taking this test, so the performance of individuals is significant," he said.

Candidates who have already failed the bar exam are less likely to pass than first-timers. Thirty-five of the candidates who sat for the exam in February were taking it for the second time, Thomas said, and only 16 passed. That's a pass rate of 45.7 percent.

Another 28 test-takers had already failed the bar at least twice. Only five of them passed it this time, a pass rate of less than 18 percent.

Also notable was the fact that graduates of the state's two law schools, at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, were less likely to pass than were students who attended law schools out of state. Ten of the 16 first-time test-takers who attended law school in Fayetteville passed, for a pass rate of 62.5 percent. Nine of 19 UALR law grads passed on their first try, for a pass rate of 47 percent.

Meanwhile, 21 of the 29 first-time test takers from out-of-state schools passed, a pass rate of 72.4 percent. Last July, the pass rate for graduates of out-of-state law schools was 84 percent compared with 79 percent for Fayetteville and just under 74 percent for UALR.

While he hasn't collected data to prove or disprove his theory, Thomas hypothesized that many of the graduates of out-of-state law schools who sit for the Arkansas bas are already practicing lawyers who have passed bar exams in their home states. That, he said, would help explain their superior performance.
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Comment:Bar Exam Pass Rate Slides Even Lower in February.
Author:Moritz, Gwen
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 27, 2000
Words:473
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