There was a front page article yesterday in the Clarion-Ledger about the 53% passage rate in Mississippi for the July Bar Exam. It opens:
Entering the legal profession in Mississippi is once again proving difficult for those seeking to become a licensed attorney.
The July Mississippi bar exam results released last week showed about 53 percent of the 172 who took the exam passed.
Passage rates are dropping
as smart students decide against law school.
Above the Law covered the State’s passage rate in a snarky post here, saying Mississippi’s Bar Exam results “suck.” From ATL:
The results from Mississippi’s July 2017 administration of the bar exam were released yesterday, revealing that only 53 percent of all test-takers passed. That’s an 18 percentage point drop from the July 2016 exam, and a staggering 27 percentage point drop from the July 2013 exam. Something is wrong here.
ATL blames the low passage rates on declining admission standards and dismisses the suggestion that students from out of state law schools are failing the exam:
Some have speculated students from out of state attending law schools in Mississippi may be leading to lower passage rates.
Apparently Mississippi law school graduates who aren’t Mississippi locals are causing lower passage rates on the Mississippi bar exam. That’s a new one we’ve never heard before, and the logic it took to get there may explain why the passage rates on the Mississippi bar exam have sunk to historic lows.
For context, Ole Law School Dean Susan Duncan wrote about the issue here.
31 of 41 (75.6%) first time takers from Ole Miss Law passed the exam. Duncan’s explanation points out that repeat takers of the Bar Exam fail by a 2-1 margin. Duncan’s stats also peg Mississippi’s passage rate at 55.9%.
Ole Miss has reduced its class sizes and denies declining admission standards.
Also, according to this 2013 Witnesseth Blog Post, Mississippi’s Bar exam does not rank among the nations easiest to pass. It ranked 20th hardest.
The Clarion-Ledger article notes that the national average was 58% in 2016.
I have trouble getting worked up over this issue.
There aren’t enough jobs waiting for the 53% who passed. No one will need a bar card to yell “Welcome to Moe’s” every time someone walks in the restaurant.
The sad fact is that we still have an over-supply of lawyers in Mississippi. That’s the reality that the people who do pass face on day 1.
As for the exam results, the main problem is that repeat exam takers keep failing. Some people try for years and never pass.
As fewer people take the exam, the people who keep taking it and failing have a disproportionate statistical impact on the passage rate.
Should the Mississippi Board of Bar Admissions pass more people to make the numbers better? No.
Should Mississippi go back to the days where state law school graduates don’t even have to take the exam? God no.
It’s easy to write about Bar Exam passage rates. But the bigger and more important stories are the job market for attorneys, fact that many talented attorneys are leaving the state for better opportunities and the mental health of attorneys.