Bar Passage - Seeking Solutions - Colorado Bar Association

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SEEKING SOLUTIONS
TO THE

BAR PASSAGE DECLINE
Prepared by: Lorenzo A. Trujillo
Assistant Dean University of Colorado School of Law


University of Colorado School of Law
Bar Passage Rate by Annual Percent
95
94
97
90
97
92
93
88
89
82
84
86
88
90
92
94
96
98
%
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
Year
(*Data from Colorado Board of Bar Examiners)


State of Colorado
Bar Passage Rate by Annual Percent
76
75
72
74
73
73
71
70
65
58
60
62
64
66
68
70
72
74
76
%
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
Year
*Data from National Conference of Bar Examiners (
www.ncbex.org/stats.htm
)
and the Colorado Board of Bar Examiners


National Statistics
Bar Passage Rate by Annual Percent
70
70
66
66
65
66
63
64
58
60
62
64
66
68
70
%
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
Year
*Data from National Conference of Bar Examiners (
www.ncbex.org/stats.htm
)


Comparative Chart
Bar Passage Rate by Annual Percent
50
55
60
65
70
75
80
85
90
95
100
%
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
Year
CU
Colorado
National


July 2004 Data

Analysis of 2004 data show that:

LSAT does not directly correlate with bar
passage

Undergraduate GPA does not directly correlate
with bar passage

Gender or ethnic status does not directly
correlate with bar passage

The key factor to bar passage is class rank
and GPA in law school.


Board of Bar Examiners

Board of Bar Examiners

Non-passing students are writing before
engaging in analysis of the question

Non-passing students demonstrating poor
organization skills

Non-passing students are failing in legal
analysis and responding with an argument
leading to a conclusion


Judicial Feedback

Judicial Feedback

CU Law students’ writings are:

Good not great

Formula writing

Technical not fluid

Lack fluid persuasion

Lacking priority and organization

Lacking demonstration of ability to handle difficult
legal problems


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate
Excerpted from
Law Schools Can Solve the “Bar Pass Problem” – “Do the Work!”,
40 Cal. W.L.Rev. 321, 343


Setting the Tone:

The Deans and Faculty should set the tone of
professionalism.

The importance of passing the bar should be
stressed to students from first year orientation
to a third year meeting that reinforces what
students must do to succeed on the bar exam.

Professors should reinforce the message at the
beginning of each semester.


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Learning Styles:


Recognize and support students who learn
differently.


Visual Learners

Aural Learners

Encourage to tape-record lectures

Kinesthetic Learners

Discourage from using laptops

Students should be given the opportunity to
determine their learning style through
handouts and tests during orientation.


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Teach and Learn the Law

Students must learn the law and be able to
analyze and write about it.

Faculty should understand the bar
methodology.

Faculty are encouraged to participate in
seminars with bar examiners or bar exam
graders.


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Encourage Students to Take “Bar Courses”

Students who do poorly in these courses will
struggle with the bar.

Encourage weaker students to take a reduced
load to master the material in “bar courses.”


It is better that a student spend an extra
semester or summer to master the bar
material than graduate in six semesters and
flunk the bar.”

40 Cal. W.L.Rev. 321, 343



Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Exams

Create relevant essay exams rather than
multiple choice question exams.

If still compelled to use multiple choice format, select
previously created MBE questions.

Phase out take-home and open-book exams

These types of exams do not replicate the bar exam.

Eliminate Pass/Fail Grades


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Academic Assistance

Identify students with poorly developed study
habits.

Increased support for tutoring program.


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Increased Emphasis on Legal Writing

Improve essay exam writing.

Teach students how to deconstruct essay questions and
hone their writing skills.

Increase writing opportunities.

Legal Writing Program Changes

Study skills

Note taking techniques

Exam Writing


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

The Grade Inflation Part of the Puzzle

Inflated grades do not give an accurate
measurement of performance.

Marginal students do not receive a fair warning
that they are in trouble.


[They] believe on the basis of their law school
grades that they have done above average / very
good work and are not in danger of failing the bar.”

40 Cal. W.L.Rev. 321, 334



Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Bar Preparation

Studying for the bar is a full-time job.

Advise students early on to get their financial
and personal lives in order before the bar.


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Continued Counseling

Continue to counsel graduates who have failed
the bar on how to succeed.

Get re-takers to change their approach.


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Pinpointing At Risk Students

With limited resources it is crucial to
concentrate on at risk individuals.

Maintain detailed statistics.

Determine the correlation between LSAT
scores, undergraduate GPA, and law school
performance with bar passage.


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Dismiss Poorer Students

It is kinder to dismiss students from law school
after one semester . . . Than to re-admit
students who have no chance of passing the
bar.”
40 Cal. W.L.Rev. 321, 347


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Strong Academic Support Offices

An academic support office can offer:

Testing

Counseling

Tutoring

Other resources to help at risk students


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Non-credit Bar Prep Courses

Law school sponsored free bar preparation
course.

Bar preparation courses that run through the
third year.


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Grade on a Curve

Decreases grade inflation.

Encourages fairness between different
sections.


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Create More Small Sections

Students thrive in small sections.

Create smaller sections in first year courses.

Focus the Curriculum

Reduce course offerings to ensure that
students are grasping the basics.


Strategies, Tactics & Suggestions
to Improve the Bar Passage Rate

Enforce Attendance Policies

Classroom learning is critical to the mastery of
law.

Law school Deans certify to bar examiners that
their students have regular attendance.


Conclusion
Need of a Committee to study
Data and Literature,
provide an
Analysis,
and
Propose
a
Plan of Action


References

Day, Christian, "Law Schools Can Solve the Bar Pass Problem -
Do the Work," Excerpted from California Western Law Review,
Spring, 2004.

Thomas, David, "Predicting Law School Academic Performance From
LSAT Scores and Undergraduate Grade Point Average: A
Comprehensive Study," 35 Ariz. St. L.J. 1007.

Kaufman, Eileen, "Chicago Conference Highlights Need to Rethink
the Bar Exam Process," SALT Equalizer (December, 2004)

Darrow-Kleinhaus, Suzanne, "A Response to the Society of
American Law Teachers Statement on the Bar Exam," Journal of
Legal Education, Vol. 54, Number 3 (September 2004)

Kirgis, Paul, "Race, Rankings, and the Part-Time Free Pass,"
Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 54, Number 3 (September 2004)

Ruby K. Payne, "A Framework for Understanding Poverty" 1998,
RFT Publishing.

Ippolito, Richard, "Performance in Law School: What Matters in
the End?" Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 54, Number 3
(September 2004)