ABA Council Accepts New Bar Passage Rate Standards

bar passage ratesAs we and countless others have reported in the last year, bar passage rates are down, with many organizations working to ensure this trend doesn’t spiral out of control, the American Bar Association being one of them.

Earlier this month, the Council of the Section of Legal Education – the final authority for any and all things related to law school accreditation – sought to tighten up bar passage rate standards by approving a number of accreditation standard revisions.

The most noteworthy change simplifies the accreditation standard – Standard 316.

Prior to the change, a law school must have met one of two criteria in order to maintain its accreditation:

  • Within 5 years, 75% ultimate bar passage rate or 3/5 years at 75% or more.
  • First-time bar passage rate no more than 15% lower than pass rate of all ABA-approved graduates in same jurisdiction for 3/5 years.

[Note that if a school does not come into compliance within 2 years, it may show good cause for an exemption in this case.]

The new amendment, however, requires that graduates of a law school pass the bar exam at a 75% or higher rate within two years of graduation.

This change shifts the focus solely to a school’s ultimate bar passage rate, eliminating the second half of the original standard completely.

Upon approving the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar’s Section Review Committee recommendation, the Council is set to hold at least one hearing on the matter. The Council will open up a comment period as well.

The Council will then seek the ABA House of Delegates’ opinion, which will likely be decided at its February 2017 mid-year meeting. Note however that the House of Delegates’ approval is not the ultimate deciding factor. If they do not approve the Council’s proposal following the comment and hearing period, the Council can choose to re-evaluate and finalize plans without their go-ahead.

Stay tuned as more updates on bar passage rate and other law school accreditation standards roll in. We’ll keep you in the know.

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