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ABA House of Delegates to reconsider revised bar passage standard

December 14, 2018

Accredited law schools could soon be operating under a revised bar passage standard if a proposal recently adopted by the Council of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar moves forward.

The council’s adopted proposal revises Standard 316 to require at least 75 percent of a law school’s graduates who sit for a bar examination to pass within two years of their graduation date. The ABA House of Delegates will consider the proposal at its MidYear Meeting on Jan. 28.

The current bar passage standard provides various options for demonstrating compliance with Standard 316, including an “ultimate” bar passage rate of 75 percent over the last five years. According to an ABA news release,  the council contends the current standard is “overly complicated” and that the proposed revisions “will better protect students and the public.”

A similar proposal was brought before the House of Delegates in February 2017, but was met with opposition and scrutiny. That measure was ultimately rejected.

In the months following the previous proposal’s rejection, the council collected school-by-school data on ultimate bar passage within two years of graduation for graduates of 2015, 2016 and 2017. It also collected more comprehensive data on first-time bar passage rates for recent graduates.

The absence of the revision’s impact on individual schools was a primary reason for the House’s non-concurrence in 2017, the ABA said.

The final decision over the accreditation standards rests with the council, which can move ahead with a change after the House considers it twice.

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