ABA report focuses on bar passage outcomes

A new report issued by the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar shows that, in aggregate, nearly 9 of 10 law graduates in 2015 who took the bar exam passed it within two years of graduation.

The report includes a comprehensive set of data on bar passage outcomes for ABA-approved law schools.

While the first-time bar passage outcomes have been reported in the past on a school-by-school basis, this report represents the first time the section has released both first-time and ultimate outcomes in this form.

The spreadsheets are available on the section’s webpage under Legal Education Statistics (www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/statistics).

“This information is being made public, aggregately, as a matter of consumer information under ABA Standard 509,” said Barry Currier, the section’s managing director. “This report is not a compliance report for ABA Standard 316, which sets the standard for bar passage. That is a separate and distinct matter. But these reports provide important consumer information for students considering whether and where to attend law school and for others with an interest in legal education.”

While results vary among the schools, the report shows that 87.83 percent of those who graduated from law school in 2015 who sat for a bar exam passed it within two years of graduation — whether on their first or a subsequent attempt.

Aggregate first-time pass rates for the classes of 2016 and 2017 were 74.3 percent and 77.2 percent, respectively.

As the 2015 ultimate results suggest, Currier said, those first-time pass rates will likely increase in subsequent administrations of the exam.

The new report is a result of a change by the section’s council, which is its governing body and national accreditor of law schools, removing bar passage information from law schools’ Standard 509 Consumer Information Reports published in the fall.

Instead, the council required law schools to complete a separate report, filed in February, on bar passage outcomes.

Also, schools were asked for the first time to report ultimate bar pass data (this time for calendar year 2015 graduates who sat for a bar exam within two years of completing law school).

The council expects to continue this reporting going forward, and next year will report on the two-year ultimate bar exam outcomes for 2016 graduates.

The change by the council, Currier said, “allows for more current information to be collected and reported,” which should be particularly helpful for prospective law students in the process of choosing schools.

“It also gives us a snapshot of how law graduates are doing over a two-year span at each school,” Currier added.

Further, he noted, the data demonstrates that law school graduates overwhelmingly sit for the bar immediately or soon after graduation.

As part of the changes made by the council, law schools are required to make reasonable efforts to report on bar exam outcomes for all graduates in both the ultimate and first-time taker categories. Previously, bar exam reports were sufficient for public reporting purposes if they reported on 70 percent or more of a graduating class.

“The council appreciates the work that law schools did to gather and report more complete bar passage data from their graduates,” Currier added.