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Winter woes

February continues to be a cold month — for takers of the North Carolina bar exam.

Barely more than 29 percent of graduates from North Carolina law schools passed the exam, down from the already-abysmal 33 percent a year ago. Out-of-state test-takers fared a little better, notching a 39.47 percent pass rate.

To be fair to North Carolina’s graduates, it should be noted that many former students of the now-defunct Charlotte School of Law sat for the exam, and proceeded to fail it in monumental fashion. But for those scores, North Carolina’s overall pass rate would have been just above 44 percent, a significant increase from last year.

Of 11 Charlotte graduates taking their first bar exam, none of them passed. Seventy-three retook the test; 65 of them failed again. That’s a success rate of 9.52 percent.

Three of the six remaining N.C. schools actually posted better percentages than they did in 2017, but only Duke, likely, is happy with its effort. Of the five first-timers, all passed. Duke sat three repeat test-takers, two of whom passed. Duke’s overall pass rate was 87.5 percent, up from 60 percent (3 of 5) last year.

North Carolina Central’s 28.38 percent pass rate is nominally better than its 27.03 percent last year. This time around, nine of 16 (56.25 percent) first-timers passed, but just 12 of 58 (20.69 percent) repeat testers made the grade.

At Elon Law, last year’s 26.32 overall pass rate increased slightly to 35 percent. In 2017, Elon sat just seven first-timers, and none of them passed. This year, 60 graduates took their first bar exam and 24 (40 percent) passed. In December, Elon graduated the first class of its new two-and-a-half-year curriculum.

Of the 20 graduates retaking the exam, just four (20 percent) found success.

Elon’s dean, Luke Bierman, said that the school isn’t happy with the pass rate. He acknowledged the difficulty of North Carolina’s exam, but made clear that the school’s expectations were not met this time around.

He added that while February’s results aren’t what the school had hoped for, it’s just a “snapshot” of the total picture.

More of that picture is captured, he said, by new American Bar Association bar pass metrics that calculate a class’s ultimate pass rate using the percentage of graduates who pass a bar exam within two years of graduation.

According to those statistics, Elon has an ultimate pass rate of more than 87 percent.

For more information and to get the rundown on all of North Carolina’s schools, click here: https://nclawyersweekly.com/2018/03/28/campbell-on-top-under-new-aba-bar-pass-metrics/

Campbell, a school known for its bar success (nearly a 98 percent ultimate pass rate, according to the metrics above), saw its February pass rate drop dramatically — more than 25 percentage points — this administration of the exam. While three of five first-timers (60 percent) passed, only seven of 21 repeat examinees did. Overall, Campbell’s 38.46 percent pass rate was a diversion from its norm.

The University of North Carolina saw the second-biggest dip, posting an overall pass rate of 46.43 percent (13 of 28), down from 65 percent in 2017. Subsequent test-takers again struggled with the bar, with 11 of 19 failing to make the cut.

Wake Forest posted the strongest showing of all the state’s schools on July’s exam, but has struggled in February. Last year, just 41.18 percent (seven of 17) of its winter test-takers passed. This year, just five of 15 (33.3 percent) did.

Follow Heath Hamacher on Twitter @NCLWHamacher

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