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Bar exam pass rate shows first decline in 5 years, down to 56.4 percent

The Committee of Bar Examiners announced last month that 56.4 percent of those who took the bar exam in July passed, down from the 61.7 percent passage rate in 2008. If the 4,888 successful test takers satisfy other requirements for admission, they will become members of the State Bar, bringing the number of California lawyers to about 223,000.

The pass rate for the July exam had been steadily rising since July 2004, when it hit a low point of 48.2 percent. It was 48.8 percent the following year, 51.8 in 2006 and 56.1 percent in 2007.

The 2009 rate dips, but it is still higher than the 2007 passage rate. Preliminary statistical analyses showed that of the 8,667 applicants who took the exam in July, 71 percent were first-timers. The pass rate for repeaters was 22 percent.

The results also showed that students who attended an ABA-accredited law school in California and took the exam the first time had the best chance of passing — 79 percent — followed by out-of-state ABA-accredited schools (69 percent). Students who attended California-accredited schools had a pass rate of 32 percent.

The pass rate for the 329 lawyers who took the attorneys’ exam was 32.5 percent, an increase over last year’s pass rate of 37.3 percent.

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