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Charleston School of Law’s bar results drop to 57% July passage rate

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By Ashley Heffernan
aheffernan@scbiznews.com
Published Nov. 3, 2015

School officials say the chaos surrounding the Charleston School of Law over the past year was at least partially to blame for the lowest pass rate on the July bar exam in the school’s history.

In the summer, 108 graduates from the law school took the S.C. bar exam, which must be passed to obtain a license to practice law in the state, and 62 passed, according to results (.pdf) released Friday by the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

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The bar is administered twice a year — in February and July — and most graduates take it in July. Dean Andy Abrams said February bar takers are typically grads who accelerate through law school by taking summer classes and those who failed the bar exam their first time in July of the previous year.

The school’s July pass rate of 57.41% is a drop from 65.33% in July 2014 and 72.56% in July 2013.

“The numbers go up and down in a given year, and we just continue to look for ways to improve the bar pass of our students. We knew we lost some really top-notch students as a result of the conflict over ownership,” Abrams said. “Looking at the list in South Carolina, at least 12 of the people who passed were formerly from here. If they passed and they had been here, then our numbers go up on that.”

A total of 45 students transferred from the Charleston School of Law to another institution over the past year, mostly because of the school’s uncertain future. Abrams said if the third-year students had not transferred out, the school’s pass rate probably would have been closer to the previous year’s rate.

“You always want it to be as high as possible. It’s kind of impossible to predict going on how you think a particular class is going to do, partly because you don’t know how they will do from their end and you don’t know how hard the bar exam itself will be,” Abrams said.

Nearly all Charleston School of Law graduates end up passing the bar. Between 2007 and 2014, 92% of the school’s exam takers passed it, even if it took more than one try, Abrams said.

“Your goal for the bar ought to always be 100% because you really want your students to pass the bar. As a practical matter, you know that’s statistically not going to happen,” he said.

For comparison, 159 University of South Carolina School of Law graduates took the bar in July, and 128, or 80.5%, passed it. The statewide pass rate was 71.53%.

The swearing-in ceremony for those who passed the exam and completed all other requirements will be at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Koger Center for the Arts in Columbia.

S.C. Bar exam passage rates

  Charleston School of Law Statewide

Bar exam

July 2007

Feb 2008

July 2008

Feb 2009

July 2009

Feb 2010

July 2010

Feb 2011

July 2011

Feb 2012

July 2012

Feb 2013

July 2013

Feb 2014

July 2014

Feb 2015

July 2015

Tested

166

48

151

54

141

60

130

63

152

67

177

76

164

67

150

70

108

Passed

116

23

109

29

107

36

94

40

114

27

122

45

119

32

98

43

62

Pass %

69.9%

47.9%

72.18%

53.70%

75.88%

60.00%

72.31%

63.49%

75.00%

40.30%

68.93%

59.21%

72.56%

47.76%

65.33%

61.43%

57.41%

Tested

552

215

462

218

485

242

423

248

462

255

506

287

525

255

484

249

432

Passed

448

148

362

136

370

163

323

173

342

156

350

208

401

158

344

158

309

Pass %

81.1%

68.8%

78.35%

62.39%

76.28%

67.36%

76.36%

69.76%

74.02%

61.18%

69.17%

72.47%

76.38%

61.96%

71.07%

63.45%

71.53%

Source: Charleston School of Law

Reach staff writer Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyBHeff on Twitter.

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