Written by Joanna Hughes

We recently covered the three percentage point drop in the bar pass rate for ABA-accredited law schools in New York state between July of 2017 and 2018. Now, deans are speaking up about what the numbers mean, along with what they plan to do about them. Here’s a closer look at the news, as recently reported by the New York Law Journal.

Looking Ahead

Brooklyn Law School is one school taking a proactive approach to reversing the trend.

Interim dean Maryellen Fullerton said, “Under the leadership of Professor Shane Dizon, who joined the Law School in August as our new Director of the Academic Success Program, we are implementing a comprehensive set of academic initiatives during the 2018-2019 year.”

“We are dedicating additional resources, including new program staff, to these initiatives, which focus on equipping our students -- beginning on their first day of law school -- to succeed on the bar exam. We are confident that these measures will produce the positive results we expect to see from our strong and talented students going forward,” Fullerton continued.

Beyond the Bar

Other law school administrators pointed out that bar pass rates are merely one measure of law school success, and that job placements, improvements, and initiatives such as medical-legal partnerships should also be factored into the equation.

Furthermore, some law school deans were less concerned than others, explaining that numbers “bounce around from year to year by a point or two.” For especially small law school classes, meanwhile, just one or two more students failing the bar can give up several percentage points.

One last thing to keep in mind is that while the decline may be disheartening, the overall numbers are still considered successful when compared to state and national averages.

This doesn’t mean, however, that New York law school leaders are complacent. Albany Law School president and dean Alicia Ouellette said, “While we are pleased to see improvement, and the direction is positive, we are not satisfied, and we won’t be until all or nearly all our graduates pass the exam the first time they take it.”

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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