Comprehensive Report on Bar Passage Data Released by ABA

Comprehensive Report on Bar Passage Data Released by ABA

Four out of five law graduates who took a bar exam for the first time in 2021 passed the mandatory attorney licensing test, according to information released by the American Bar Association.

The ABA releases data on first-time and ultimate bar passage rates each spring as a resource for the public and potential law school applicants. The data also examines what is known as an “ultimate pass rate,” which is based on graduating classes from two years ago, which for this year is 2019. It is used in determining law school compliance with Standard 316, which requires that at least 75% of a law school’s graduates who take a bar exam pass within two years of graduation.

The first-time test-taker pass rate for 2021 graduates was 79.86%, or 80.28% if admission by diploma privilege is included in the data. That’s a drop of more than 3% from the aggregate national first-time bar pass rate of nearly 84% for 2020.

But based on data for 2019 graduates, the two-year bar passage rate for ABA-accredited law schools has increased to 91.17%. If you include 2019 graduates admitted to a bar through diploma privilege, the pass rate is 91.27%. Last year’s two-year bar passage rate, which used class of 2018 data, was 90.1%.

“The new data shows that in the aggregate, 91.17% of 2019 law graduates who sat for a bar exam passed it within two years of graduation (91.27% with Diploma Privilege),” the ABA said. “The two-year “ultimate” aggregate success rate is slightly better than the 90.10% comparable figure for 2018 graduates. The 2019 ultimate bar pass data also reveals that 94.98% of all graduates sat for a bar exam within two years of graduation, and that schools were able to obtain bar passage information from 99.02% of 2019 graduates.”

Bill Adams, managing director of ABA accreditation and legal education, said that as with past years, this information was reported to the ABA by law schools and is being made public as a matter of consumer information under the authority of ABA Standard 509.

“These public reports provide important consumer information for students considering whether and where to attend law school and for others with an interest in legal education,” said Adams. “But this report is not a compliance report for ABA Standard 316, which establishes bar exam outcomes that a law school must achieve under the accreditation standards. That is a separate and distinct matter.”


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