Law Schools Can Defeat Our Bar Pass Problem - Do the Work!

32 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2004

See all articles by Christian C. Day

Christian C. Day

Syracuse University - College of Law


The bar pass rate for law graduates peaked in 1994. Since the mid-1990s this rate has declined precipitously. In 1999 and 2000 first-time test takers passed at a rate of only seventy-five percent; in 2002 first-time test takers who graduated from ABA-approved schools had a seventy-four percent pass rate. The decline in Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) scores foreshadowed these failures. Many students with LSAT scores below 157 are at considerable risk of failing the bar exam, as this essay demonstrates. The failure to pass the bar exam has devastating consequences for the applicant and may have serious consequences for law schools as reputations decline.

Law schools have a moral and professional obligation, not only to graduate their increasingly heterogeneous student body, but also to enable graduates to practice by preparing them to pass the bar. This essay explains why strategies to improve the bar pass rate by increasing selectivity, either through admissions or attrition, may not succeed. It argues that law schools must work with the students they admit. The essay concludes by offering a number of common sense tactics and strategies to raise exam pass rates without turning law schools into bar schools.

Suggested Citation

Day, Christian C., Law Schools Can Defeat Our Bar Pass Problem - Do the Work!. California Western Law Review, Vol. 40, p. 321, 2004, Available at SSRN:

Christian C. Day (Contact Author)

Syracuse University - College of Law ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244-1030
United States
315-443-3650 (Phone)
315-443-4141 (Fax)

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