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July bar exam pass rate dips below 50 percent

Only 49.4 percent of the aspiring lawyers who took the July bar exam passed, the lowest level for the July exam since 1986, when a pass rate of 44.4 percent was posted. The Committee of Bar Examiners announced last month that of the 7,788 people who took the exam, 3,848 passed.

The pass rate for the July 2002 exam was 50.5 percent.

An even lower percentage — 45.5 percent — passed the Attorneys' Exam, although that rate was higher than the July 2002 exam, when only 38.7 percent passed. The attorneys' exam is administered to lawyers who have practiced for at least four years in another jurisdiction.

Jerome Braun, the State Bar's director of admissions, said the lower rate may be due in part to a change in the "Do Not Grade" policy of previous years, which allowed applicants to ask that their tests not be graded. "In the past, approximately 25 to 30 applicants would formally file such a request," said Braun. "Usually the request was due to illness or the realization that they were not adequately prepared."

This year, however, the committee eliminated the option because it was difficult to administer and to ensure the security of the exam.

Nonetheless, Braun said the exam scores "are scaled so that the difficulty remains constant from one test to the next."

Successful applicants who have satisfied other requirements for admission can be sworn in individually or at one of several admissions ceremonies this month.

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