The Maryland July bar exam hit historic lows both in the number of people who took the exam and the number of passers, according to figures released Monday by the State Board of Law Examiners.
Some 782 people sat for the exam July 24 and 25, the lowest since July 1981, when 741 people sat for the exam (62 percent of takers passed then). In addition, 59 percent of test takers passed the exam this summer, the lowest since July 1986 when the pass rate was 58 percent.
The drop in this year’s pass rate appears to be driven by repeat test takers, as the number of first-time takers who passed the July exam was on par with the past two years at 71 percent.
However, only 72 percent of test takers this summer were first-timers, down from last year’s 77 percent. In contrast, 82 percent of bar exam takers were first timers in 2016 and 85 percent were in that boat in 2015, signaling a downward trend in the percentage of first-time takers in recent years, according to data from the board of law examiners.
Among first time takers at the Maryland schools, 84 percent of graduates from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law passed the July exam. Among graduates of the University of Baltimore, 71 percent of first-time takers passed the test.
“We were very pleased with the results for our students. We’ve put significant resources in helping students passed the bar and we are pleased to see the results go up,” said Donald Tobin, dean of UM Carey on Monday, adding the school is continuing to work with students who did not pass the bar.
The pass rate among first-time takers at UM Carey was 78 percent last year.
Overall, including repeat test takers, both schools were above the average bar pass rate in Maryland, UM Carey had an overall pass rate of 72 percent and UB Law had a 60 percent pass rate.
“I’m happy that we held on the to the improvement from a couple of years ago,” UB Law dean Ronald Weich said. “We always want to do better and we’ve established a number of initiatives to better prepare students for the bar.”
The large drop-off in number of test-takers this summer may be attributed to law students in Washington opting to take the Uniform Bar Exam in the District of Columbia. which adopted the test in March 2016. This summer, 1,700 people took the UBE in Washington, a record number of test takers, according to the D.C. Court of Appeals.
In addition, Washington law schools, including Georgetown University Law Center, George Washington University Law School, American University Washington College of Law and Howard University School of Law, all had sharp decreases in the number of students who took the Maryland bar exam this summer, according to data from the board of law examiners.
Weich and Tobin were members of a task force through the Maryland Judiciary that last year recommended the state adopt the Uniform Bar Exam. The proposed implementation date for the exam is July 2019.
“We think the UBE is going to be a positive development,” Weich said.
Both schools are looking at their course offerings to make sure students will be prepared for the UBE.
“We think that (the UBE) will be a real benefit for our students and students everywhere because it will put Maryland students on a more consistent footing with other state bars,” Tobin said.
Anamika Roy is a student at UM Carey.