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Bar exam pass rate holds steady at 54.8 percent

The Committee of Bar Examiners announced last month that 54.8 percent of those who took the bar exam in July passed, the same percentage as the July 2010 pass rate. If the 4,635 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 237,000.

The pass rate for the July exam had been steadily rising since July 2004, when it hit a low point of 48.2 percent, until 2008, when it peaked at 61.7 percent. The pass rate was 48.8 percent in 2005, 51.8 in 2006 and 56.1 percent in 2007. It dipped again in 2009 to 56.4 percent.

The number of applicants also declined, from 8,667 in 2009 to 8,562 in 2010 and 8,456 this year. Nearly 72 percent — 6,080 — were first-time test takers and they scored a pass rate of 69 percent. The pass rate for the 2,376 repeaters was 18 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 (66 percent). Students who attended California-accredited schools had a pass rate of 35 percent, down from last year’s 40 percent pass rate.

The pass rate for the 396 lawyers who took the attorneys’ exam was 34.6 percent, a decline from last year’s 41.6 percent pass rate. Of those who took the attorneys’ exam, 26 were disciplined lawyers who took the test as a condition of reinstatement. Four passed. The attorneys’ examination is open to lawyers who have been admitted to the active practice of law in good standing for at least four years in another United States jurisdiction.

Successful applicants who have satisfied other requirements for admission — those who have not been reported for being in arrears with family or child support payments, who have received a positive moral character determination and who have passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination — may either take the attorney’s oath individually or participate in admissions ceremonies held throughout the state during December.