The Legal Beat
Law School Sees Its 5th Straight Year Of Majority-Fail Results On The July Bar Exam
Posted on Friday January 13, 2017
The February 2017 bar examination is a little more than a month away, but some jurisdictions are still releasing their post-appeal statistics from the July 2016 administration of the exam. One of those jurisdictions is Michigan, and although the initial exam results were available to test-takers in late October, the state only recently released post-appeal results by law school.
With five institutions of legal education residing within the state, Michigan is home to one of the best law schools in the United States, and one of what many would categorize as one of the worst (although it has referred to itself in the past as being the second-best). Bar exam passage rates continued their precipitous declines in states across the country, but how did Michigan fare, considering its law school makeup?
Overall, 66 percent of those who took the exam this past summer passed — a four percentage point increase from July 2015. Which in-state schools helped the state raise its pass rate (and which ones hindered it from being even higher)? Here’s the school-by-school breakdown for the July 2016 Michigan bar exam from the Michigan BOLE:
Before we address the elephant in the room, let’s have a chat about what happened with the results from the University of Michigan, which had the highest passage rate in the state. In July 2015, 92 percent of graduates from the elite law school passed the state bar exam, but in July 2016, 84 percent passed the exam. While a bar exam passage rate in the mid-eighties is certainly admirable, an eight percentage point drop is not. No wonder students are depositing their droppings on the bathroom floors.
The University of Detroit Mercy has also suffered in terms of its bar exam passage rates in its home state. Since July 2010, the school’s passage rates have gotten lower and lower, finally settling at around a 55 to 60 percent pass rate, despite the fact that its entering admissions profile for students has remained much the same. At least the school’s passage rate for first-time takers went up from July 2015 to July 2016.
Without further ado, let’s talk about the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. A name change didn’t change the fact that its bar exam passage rates leave much to be desired. Once again, Cooley Law had the most graduates sit for the exam, and with a 41 percent overall passage rate, it did the worst out of all Michigan schools. In fact, this was the fifth straight July exam that Cooley Law saw a majority of its test-takers fail the exam. It is worth noting, however, that Cooley Law managed to improve its first-time passage rate from 53 percent in July 2015 to 61 percent in July 2016. Whether it be the quality of students that were admitted to the school or the rigor of its bar exam preparatory programming, something Cooley Law is doing is working (unlike the school’s graduates — just 27.5 percent of the class of 2015 was employed in full-time, long-term positions where bar passage was required — yikes).
If you failed the bar exam this past summer and you’re gearing up for the February test, then we wish you the very best of luck. Someday, somehow, some way, you will pass.
Staci Zaretsky is an editor at Above the Law. She’d love to hear from you, so feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.