July 2009 Bar Exam Results Boast Highest Pass Rate in 20+ Years

October 09, 2009

November 19, 2009

Our final bar passage rate for July 2009 was 91% after appeals. This is 2% higher than the statewide average.

As noted in my earlier message discussing the pass rate before appeals (see below) there is good reason to believe that we are on the right track.

Please join me in congratulating our 2009 takers for their excellent performance. Please also join me in thanking all of the many people at the Sturm College of Law who made this possible, including the Bar Success group, led by Scott Johns, the AAP group, led by Mary Steefel, and our excellent faculty.

Interim Dean and Associate Professor Martin J. Katz

October 29, 2009

The preliminary bar pass results are out. First time DU takers passed at a rate of 89% before appeals (which are likely to result in some improvement in that rate). This is excellent news in at least four respects.

First, an 89% pass rate is very good in and of itself.

Second, this rate is equal to the statewide average. This is one of our long term goals: to be consistently at or above the state average pass rate. Moreover we have accomplished that goal two times in a row: In February 2009, our first-time pass rate after appeals was 75%, while the state first-time average pass rate was 74%. If the trend holds, we appear to be achieving this goal ahead of schedule. (You may recall that in my July 8, 2009 message, I explained why I believed we could achieve “a first time pass rate of at least the state median on all exams and a first time pass rate of at least 90% for July exams” by July 2011.)

Third, for the last two years, we appear to be outperforming expectations. Our extensive study of bar pass factors shows that two of the best predictors of bar passage are (1) LSAT score, and (2) undergraduate GPA (UGPA). Based on those factors, the class entering in 2006 was predicted to pass at a rate of 80.4%. The pass rate for July three years after matriculation is only a rough approximation of a class’s performance, but this 89% first-time July pass rate gives us reason to believe that the class entering in 2006 is on track to beat its predicted performance. Again, this appears to continue a positive trend: The class entering in 2005, which was predicted to pass the bar at a rate of 77%, has a cumulative first-time pass rate so far of 86.8%. (This figure tends to trend downward over time, as not all graduates in recent classes have taken the bar, and pass rates tend to decline with delay between graduation and taking the bar. However, it is likely to remain above the predicted pass rate.)

Fourth, there is reason to believe that the best is yet to come. The gains we are currently seeing reflect only some of our bar pass initiatives. Most likely, our current success is the result of:

  • Our extensive Bar Success Program, which is designed to supplement commercial bar preparation programs;
  • Our hard-working Academic Achievement Program, which identifies and provides support to students whose law school performance puts them at risk;
  • Course selection restrictions we have placed upon students whose law school performance puts them at risk; and
  • A renewed emphasis placed upon bar passage by our faculty (and students).
    However, the success we are currently seeing does NOT yet reflect what may well be our two most important bar pass initiatives:
  • Our new admissions policy, which drastically reduces the number of students who are likely to be at risk based on their LSAT and UGPA; and
  • Our new good standing policy, which requires a higher LGPA to graduate.

As I indicated in my letter of July 8, 2009, we will not see the effect of those last two initiatives until the July 2011 bar.