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Bar exam pass rate jumps five percent over last year

More than half of the applicants who took the July bar exam — 56.1 percent — passed, the Committee of Bar Examiners reported last month. If the 4,571 successful test takers satisfy other requirements for admission, they will become members of the State Bar, bringing the number of California lawyers to more than 216,000.

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

“The pass rate fluctuates depending on the applicants’ education and their preparation,” said Gayle Murphy, the bar’s senior executive for admissions. “This year, it appears the students were more well-qualified than in the past.”

Preliminary statistical analyses showed that of the 8,151 applicants who took the exam, 74.1 percent were first-timers. The pass rate for repeaters was 19 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 — 76 percent — followed by out-of-state ABA-accredited schools (67 percent). Students who attended California-accredited schools had a pass rate of 32 percent.

The pass rate for the 335 lawyers who took the attorneys’ exam was just 37.3 percent, although that also was a slight increase over last year’s exam.

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