36 percent more students passed the bar exam this year

Law students taking the bar exam this year are in luck: they have a better chance of passing.

The newest results from Oregon’s July bar exam show a 21 percent point increase in the number of passing grades, jumping from 58 percent last year to 79 percent this year. The scores were released Sept. 22.

UO Faculty Senate Vice President Bill Harbaugh said that’s due to Oregon Supreme Court’s decision to lower the bar score and adopt a new form of the test.

He’s also concerned about new, less qualified lawyers oversaturating the job market.

“It’s bad news for those 260 students who would have passed the older, harder exam, and who now have to try and find a job in an even more flooded job market.”

But UO law school leaders say that the new test isn’t any easier and students are still studying the same amount.

Nicole Commissiong, Dean of Student Affairs at the UO Law School, said that the current test is not in any way easier despite the score being lowered.

“That has not changed the amount of work that bar applicants are expected to do to prepare to pass the bar exam,” Commissiong said. “It is a difficult 2-day exam that covers many subjects.”

Commissiong said students preparing for the exam should expect to study 40-50 hours a week beginning after graduation on May 20 until the exam itself, which is the last Tuesday and Wednesday of July.

In March, the deans of Oregon’s three law schools penned a letter to the Board of Bar Examiners (BBX) asking to lower the minimum bar score. The deans, from UO, Lewis and Clark

and Willamette, wrote Oregon’s passing score was higher than other states. During that time, Oregon’s minimum passing score was 284, the third highest in the country behind Delaware and California.

In their letter to the BBX, the deans first asked that the score be changed to 264, but ultimately settled on 274. The Oregon Supreme Court approved the change.

With the new test and lower score, 362 people passed the bar exam this year.

Harbaugh said that the actions of the BBX and the Oregon Supreme Court hurt lawyers in the long run.

“In short, the Oregon’s new test, with the new cut-rate, is much easier than the old one, and much easier than the BBX led the Supreme Court to believe, and has given Oregon what is almost the highest pass rate in the country,” he said.


Correction: This article was corrected to accurately reflect the percentage increase of students who passed the bar exam.

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Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin

Michael is one of the Emerald's associate news editors. In his free time, he enjoys rock climbing and going to house shows. Drop him a tip via email at [email protected]