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Bar pass rate highest since 2011

Peter Vieth//October 28, 2019

Bar pass rate highest since 2011

Peter Vieth//October 28, 2019

vbbe_feaThe success rate for those taking the Virginia bar exam this summer was the highest since 2011, the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners reported.

Of the 637 who sat for the bar exam in Roanoke in July, 479, or 75.20%, earned passing scores, the agency reported. Of that number, 444 have completed all other requirements and are considered Virginia lawyers as of Oct. 18. Another 35 who passed the bar have not yet completed other requirements for license. Their admission to the bar is deferred pending completion of their outstanding requirements, the VBBE said. The results are posted on the VBBE’s website.

The overall pass rate of 75.20% is the best for the July test since the 76.40% rate of 2011. The July pass rate for first-time exam takers this year was 80.04%, the board reported.

While the 444 A-list bar passers are considered licensed members of the Virginia State Bar, they must first take an oath of fidelity and be formally admitted to court in order to practice in any Virginia court. Most will be admitted statewide when the Supreme Court of Virginia convenes for an admission ceremony on Dec. 4 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

For those who did not pass, the deadline for applying to take the 2020 February exam is Dec. 16.

The February overall bar pass rate was 62.64%, the highest for the February exam since 2005.

The Virginia essay questions for past bar exams are posted on the VBBE website.

The University of Virginia leads the eight Virginia law schools with its bar pass rate of 90.24%. Next is Liberty University with 88.24%. Liberty has emphasized its bar performance in recent years and placed fifth in the nation in its pass rate for first-time exam takers in calendar year 2018, according to Themis Bar Review.

Nationally, the news is good. Scores for the national multiple choice portion of the bar exam posted the largest one year increase since July 2008, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

The national Multistate Bar Examination mean scaled score for July 2019 was 141.1, an increase of about 1.6 points from the July 2018 mean of 139.5, the NCBE said. This increase is a rebound from the drop in the MBE mean score observed between July 2017 and July 2018.

Nationally, applications for the bar exam are flat. In all, 45,334 examinees sat for the MBE in July, an increase of just 0.1% compared to the July 2018 session.

The VBBE’s results chart is below.

 JULY BAR EXAM PASSAGE RATES First-time Takers Percentage Overall Percentage
All July 2019 Bar Exam Applicants 80.04% 75.20%
Virginia Law Schools:
     Appalachian School of Law 55.56% 50.00%
     College of William and Mary 86.21% 85.23%
     George Mason University 81.48% 81.03%
     Liberty University 88.24% 88.24%
     Regent University 85.29% 78.95%
     University of Richmond 88.46% 85.88%
     University of Virginia 90.24% 90.24%
     Washington and Lee University 80.65% 81.25%

The VBBE this year revised its rules to provide three options when applying for the bar exam:

Option 1: Applicant will take the Virginia essay exam and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE).

Option 2: Applicant may take only the Virginia essay portion of the exam and may use/transfer an MBE scaled score of 133 or greater, taken within three years prior to the date of the exam applied for, from either a previous bar exam taken in Virginia, or a previous bar exam taken in a jurisdiction other than Virginia.

Option 3: Applicant may take only the Virginia essay portion of the exam.  This applicant must be an attorney who holds an active license to practice law and is in good standing in a jurisdiction other than Virginia, and has taken and passed a bar exam in a jurisdiction other than Virginia.

The changes were effective Sept. 1.

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