Reining in the Increased Bar Exam Passagee Rate
This past Friday, the Pennsylvania Board of Legal Examiners released results from the July 2010 Bar Exam. The 1,800 recent law school graduates, as well as about 200 repeat applicants, found out their fates of whether they could actually be licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, or whether about $120,000 in law school tuition wouldn’t be put to good use yet.
Of course, in prior years, a significant number of those who took the exams would already be gainfully employed. Now? It seems more than a few recent law school grads have been waiting for these results to help their marketability and enable them to get jobs.
What is also worth noting is the increased pass rate for the bar. Back in 1999, when I took the Bar, the pass rate was 70.4 percent. As recently as 2005, only 72.3 percent of test takers passed. For July 2010, the pass rate increased to just about 80 percent, including 85 percent for first time test takers.
While it’s never proper to hope someone doesn’t pass the Bar Exam, it does bear questioning whether the increased pass rate is a good thing. More newly-licensed attorneys means more competition for currently-licensed attorneys in the already sparse number of available law jobs in Pennsylvania. A “gener0us” pass rate will encourage more people to apply and attend law school, further exacerbating the glut of attorneys. Ideally, the economy will improve, and there’ll be a need for more attorneys. That day is not here yet.
Maybe it’s just a matter of Bar applicants being better prepared for the Bar Exam. Perhaps, however, the Board of Legal Examiners should examine whether to make standards more stringent.