Chicago Daily Law Bulletin: College of Law posts Bar Passage Rate of 97%

Monday, October 26, 2009

This story appeared in the October 23, 2009 edition of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and is reprinted with the permission of the Law Bulletin Publishing Company.

Bar exam's pass rate best in 14 years

By Jerry Crimmins
Law Bulletin staff writer

The overall pass rate for the Illinois bar exam in July was 89 percent, the highest in 14 years. The pass rate for first-time test-takers was 92 percent, said Donald H. Funk, secretary-treasurer of the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar. The number of people who took the exam in July was 2,710, down slightly from last year's 2,729 test-takers. Last year's pass rates were 88 percent overall and 92 percent for first-timers.

University of Chicago Law School returned to the top among the nine law schools in Illinois with the best pass rate for first-time test-takers — 99 percent.

Law schools typically pay the most attention to the pass rates for their first-time test-takers.

The University of Illinois College of Law was second with a 97 percent pass rate for first timers.

Chicago-Kent College of Law is in the top three with 96.05 percent.

At the University of Chicago, 75 first-time test-takers passed and one failed.

"Smart students, the best legal education in the world, and serious studying combine to make a winning formula," said Saul Levmore, the outgoing dean of the U of C law school. "We are very proud of our students and graduates.

"Ironically, even this spectacular pass rate hurts us in those silly U.S. News rankings,'' he said.

He said in other states that have "many unaccredited and virtually open-enrollment'' law schools, lower pass rates allow the successful schools a "degree-of-difficulty correction that swamps our fantastic results.''

The University of Illinois came in second with 120 first-time test-takers passing and only four failing, for a rounded-off pass rate of 97 percent.

U of I moved up to second place this year after finishing eighth last year.

"We are delighted by the success of our graduating class, which confirms the enormous talent and dedication of our students," said Bruce P. Smith, dean at the U of I College of Law. "We congratulate our recent graduates and look forward to the leading roles they will play as members of the practicing bar."

Because the pass-fail results of many of the schools are very close, a small difference can mean a lot on the scale.

From Chicago-Kent, 228 first-timers took the bar exam and nine failed, for a pass rate of 96 percent.

"We continue to be gratified by the stellar performance of our students on the bar examination,'' said Chicago-Kent's dean, Harold J. Krent. "I only wish our students faced a more accommodating job market.''

Northwestern University School of Law, which had the highest pass rate in the state last year, came in fourth this year with a pass rate for first-timers of 95.54 percent.

From Northwestern, 112 first-timers took the exam and 107 passed.

Loyola University Chicago School of Law came in fifth, with 94 percent of first-time test-takers passing.

From Loyola, 206 first-timers passed and 14 failed.

DePaul University College of Law, Southern Illinois University School of Law and The John Marshall Law School were closely grouped at six, seventh and eighth places.

From DePaul, 213 first-time test-takers passed and 15 failed for a pass rate of 93.4 percent.

From SIU, 63 first-timers passed and five failed, for a pass rate of 92.6 percent.

From John Marshall, 241 first-timers passed and 20 failed for a pass rate of 92.34 percent.

"I just think our students work very hard, and we are pleased with the results. We're higher than last year,'' said John Marshall's dean, John E. Corkery.  

Northern Illinois University School of Law had the third-best pass rate for first-timers in 2008 — nearly 95 percent — but fell to ninth in 2009.

From NIU law, 71 first-timers took the exam. Of those, 57 passed and 14 failed for a pass rate of 80.3 percent.

"We are very proud of all our students who passed the Illinois bar and will continue our efforts to bring us closer to the 95 percent pass rate we achieved last year,'' said the dean, Jennifer L. Rosato, who took over only July 1.