Most N.Y. Law Schools Report Higher Pass Rates in Bar Exam

, New York Law Journal

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Twelve of New York state's 15 law schools have reported higher bar pass rates for first-time candidates who took the bar exam in July. The schools largely bounced back from an overall dip in scores last year, when eight schools posted lower pass rates from a year prior (NYLJ, Dec. 11, 2012).

Most of the changes since last year were small, but four schools—Brooklyn Law, New York Law, St. John's Law and Syracuse Law—recorded increases greater than that of the statewide pass rate, which rose three percentage points to 88 percent.

New York Law and Brooklyn Law saw the most dramatic increases, with New York Law rising by 13 percentage points and Brooklyn Law by almost 9. In both cases, the increases came after drops a year earlier.

St. John's pass rate grew by more than four points after declining five points last year. Syracuse's four-point increase built on a 10-point increase in 2012.

Brooklyn Law's improved score tied it with Cornell Law School, which has traditionally held the state's No. 3 spot. The 94-percent pass rate is a record for Brooklyn.

The school was "hit hard" last year, seeing its score fall to 85.5 percent from 89 in 2011, said Dean Nicholas Allard. So this year, the school introduced one-on-one mentoring between faculty and students that began in the spring and continued after graduation to ensure that test takers were sticking to a study plan for the July exam.

"We're used to being higher than 90, and this year our graduates pulled in a solid performance," said Allard, who himself met with students daily throughout the spring.

For bar candidates who began working full-time immediately after graduation, the school coached them on broaching conversations with employers about the importance of receiving enough time to study and take bar prep courses. In some cases, Allard said, the school stepped in to speak with employers on students' behalf.

New York Law School rose several rungs in the rankings of the state's schools with its 83 percent pass rate after falling to last place last year. In 2012, the school's pass rate for first-time test-takers for the July exam fell 10 percentage points to 70, which dean Anthony Crowell called "unacceptable." The school had posted a 94 percent pass rate in 2008.

Crowell, who began his deanship the day after the class of 2012 graduated, quickly organized an 11-member task force to recommend and implement measures to raise the school's exam scores. Faculty incorporated extra test material into their curricula. And like Brooklyn Law, the school paired its students with faculty members for regular academic coaching.

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