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bar exam failure

Florida winter bar exam passage rate now at lowest point in 8 years

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How low can we go: The number of first-time Florida Bar takers who pass the February administration of the exam has plummeted to its lowest level in eight years.

Of 751 first-time takers, 433 passed the bar, or 57.7 percent, according to a Monday release from the state’s Board of Bar Examiners.

That’s down from the high pass rate of 80.2 percent in February 2013, when there were 819 first-timers, and the lowest passing percentage for the February exam since 2009.

“Save for a few states, bar passage rates have continued to decline nationwide,” the Above the Law blog reported late last year, noting that California’s July bar exam pass rate was its lowest in 32 years.

Experts have placed the blame on law schools lowering their admission standards to fill seats as the number of applicants continues to decline.

Part of that decline is because full-time lawyer jobs keep dwindling, according to The American Lawyer. Citing U.S. Department of Labor data last week, the website reported “employment in the U.S. legal sector took another hit in March, with the industry losing 1,500 jobs.”

Like many state bar exams, Florida’s is given twice a year, in late February and late July. More law students traditionally take the exam in the summer, however, immediately after graduation and bar review.

A smaller number, including those who fail the summer exam, take the bar in the winter. The total of all test-takers for February was 1,881.

Here are the February 2017 passage rates broken down by individual Florida law schools:

University of Miami School of Law — 80.6 percent

Florida International University College of Law — 78.9 percent

University of Florida College of Law — 66.7 percent

Florida State University College of Law — 59.1 percent

Ave Maria School of Law — 57.9 percent

Nova Southeastern University College of Law — 55 percent

Barry University School of Law — 51.5 percent

Stetson University College of Law — 51.3 percent

Florida A&M University College of Law — 46.2 percent

St. Thomas University College of Law — 44.7 percent

Florida Coastal School of Law — 25 percent

Of first-time test takers who went to law school outside Florida, 41.3 percent passed and lawyers from other states who also want to be licensed in Florida passed by 72.7 percent.

Statistics for previous exams are here.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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