Indiana law schools post changing fortunes in first-time bar passage rates

Newly released data from the American Bar Association shows the bar passage rate for first-time takers is improving at IU Maurer and Notre Dame but slipping at IU McKinney.

The 2019 First Time Taker Bar Pass Data lists the number of graduates from each accredited law school, including the 2019 graduates, who took their first bar exam last year. These stats have been complied every year since 2017.

Indiana University Maurer School of Law had 173 graduates take a bar exam for the first time in 2019, with 112 passing for a rate of 88.19%. Seventy-five graduates specifically took the Indiana bar, of which 66 passed, leading to a passing rate of 88%.

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law had 220 graduates sit for their first bar last year, with 152 passing for a rate of 69.09%. Of the 197 graduates who took the exam in Indiana, 133 passed for a rate of 67.51%

Notre Dame Law School recorded 193 graduates taking the bar for the first time in 2019, with 174 passing for a rate of 90.16%. All 15 who sat for the Indiana bar passed, giving the Fighting Irish a perfect 100% passing rate.

Comparatively, the data from previous years shows the passage rates at IU Maurer and Notre Dame fell slightly in 2018 before jumping up last year.

The Bloomington law school posted a pass rate of 80% in 2018, a slight decrease from the 81.44% recorded in 2017. Similarly, the South Bend school’s pass rate declined to 87.62% in 2018 from 89.29% in 2017.

However, IU McKinney’s bar exam passage has been trending downward. The Indianapolis school has seen its first-time pass rate steadily sink from 70.48% in 2017 to 69.53% in 2018.

For the Indiana bar exam specifically, IU Maurer again dipped in 2018 to 84.85% from 86.49% in 2017. IU McKinney and Notre Dame both charted improvements. The Indianapolis institution moved to 70.79% in 2018 from 69.27% in 2017, while the Irish rose to 90.91% in 2018 from 88.24% in 2017.

Missing from the 2019 data is Valparaiso Law School. The American Bar Association did not provide an explanation as to why Valparaiso, which is slated to close after the 2020 spring semester, was not included in the bar passage data. Also, the northwest Indiana law school did not respond to a request from the Indiana Lawyer for the 2019 first-time takers pass rates.

Valparaiso’s data was included in the 2018 and 2017 first-time taker numbers. Like IU Maurer and Notre Dame, Valparaiso posted a decline, with the 2018 first-time examinees posting a passage rate of 36.96%, down from the 46.60% recorded in 2017.

Likewise, Valparaiso fell on the Indiana bar exam, with the passage rate dropping to 40% in 2018 from 46.81% in 2017.

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