For the second straight year, about 63 percent of those who took the Maryland bar exam in July passed the test, the first indication that the recent downward trend in the passage rate might be coming to an end.
In another positive sign for the state’s two law schools, the portion of graduates of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law that passed the July exam — which was held on July 26 and July 27 — both increased by several percentage points, according to the State Board of Law Examiners.
Just three years ago, 78 percent of people who took the Maryland bar exam in the summer were successful, but that figure dropped to 72 percent in 2014 and then to 63 percent last year.
By contrast, the pass rate for UM Carey Law graduates rose from 69 percent last year to 74 percent this summer. The school’s dean, Donald Tobin, said he is pleased that UM Carey Law’s graduates are passing the bar at a rate that compares favorably to the state average.
“We’re obviously pleased about the improvement for our students. I still think that there’s more to be done — we obviously we would like our students to be able to be practicing members of the bar,” Tobin said.
UB Law saw a slightly smaller bump in its percentage of successful exam-takers, from 60 percent in July 2015 to 62 percent this year. Both schools also saw a greater portion of their graduates who were taking the exam for the first time pass: at UM Carey Law, 78 percent of first-time exam-takers succeeded this year; at UB Law, 69 percent did.
Despite the slight uptick in the percentage of bar-exam passers this year, neither school has yet returned to its peak level of bar exam success. The overall rate of passage at UB Law reached 83 percent in July 2013, while at UM Carey Law, 87 percent of graduates who took the test in July 2008 passed.
A more difficult Multistate Bar Exam — which makes up one-third of a Maryland exam-taker’s score — was widely considered to have contributed to the decline in bar passage rates around the country over the last several years.
“We had some improvement, in both first-time takers and in our overall rates, but we know that we have a lot of work to do,” said Ronald Weich, dean of UB Law. “We want to get back to the point that our pass rate is above the state average instead of just below it.”
Both Tobin and Weich said their schools are working to increase students’ access to resources, such as bar preparation courses, that help sharpen skills needed to succeed on the exam, including analytical reasoning and essay writing.
“We’re focused on helping students develop study habits that will serve them well under the intense pressure of the bar exam,” Weich said. “It’s a high-stakes exam, and we want to make sure the students are preparing themselves and giving this their undivided attention.”
A total of 790 people passed the bar this year out of a total of 1,252 test-takers, according to the State Board of Law Examiners.
This story has been updated to correct UM Carey Law’s peak rate of success on the exam.
|Bar exam passage rates|
|Maryland (overall)||UM Carey Law||UB Law|
|July 2016||63 percent||74 percent||62 percent|
|July 2015||63 percent||69 percent||60 percent|
|July 2014||72 percent||75 percent||73 percent|
|July 2013||78 percent||79.6 percent||83 percent|
|Source: State Board of Law Examiners|