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Results of July’s New York state bar exam show increased passage rates among all categories of a record 10,448 candidates, according to figures released yesterday by the Board of Law Examiners in Albany. The most dramatic change was seen among graduates of New York state law schools taking the exam for the first time, with a pass rate of 86.7 percent — an increase of 5.7 percentage points over July 2005. Among all first-timers, the pass rate was 79.4 percent, representing a 3.4 point increase. Passage rate for all candidates was 69.5 percent, an increase of 2.5 points. The improvements came despite a controversial five-point increase last year in the minimum passing score — to 665 points out of a possible 1,000. The new minimum was vigorously opposed by the deans of all 15 law schools in the state, as well as by all major and special interest bar associations. Officially, the passing rate average of 76 percent for 2005′s first-time takers was merely one point lower than 2004′s average. So this year’s first-time figure was 2.4 points higher than the pass rate in July 2004, the last year before the required score was raised. The list of successful candidates appears in Section 3 of the print edition of today’s Law Journal, or online at www.nylawyer.com. A confidential projection provided to law school officials early this year by the law board suggested that the figure could have been 78 percent in July 2005 if not for the higher pass score — meaning that as many as 170 candidates who failed the exam in July 2005 would have passed it in February of that year. (NYLJ, Jan. 13). A comparable figure was not available for this year. Because of the controversy, the law board agreed to hold off additional five-point increases over succeeding years — for an ultimate passing score of 675 — until an impact report could be prepared for the Court of Appeals. Opponents of the increases challenged a law board study suggesting increased “incompetency” in the profession, and said the move would have adverse affects on minorities and other candidates generally unable to afford the time and money needed to prepare for what is regarded as the most difficult bar exam in the country. No breakdown of figures were released yesterday by the law board reflecting pass rates among minorities or low-income candidates. John J. McAlary, executive director of the law board, said a “very comprehensive” impact report by the National Conference of Bar Examiners had indeed been prepared. He said its public release was expected “shortly,” though he would not say if that meant days, weeks or months. Upon public release, he said, the five-member law board, chaired by Diane F. Bosse of Buffalo, would discuss findings with law school deans and bar groups before determining future action, to be taken with approval by the Court of Appeals. The report’s findings, said Mr. McAlary, are based on data collected from July 2005 bar exam candidates who identified themselves by race, age, ethnicity and gender and who authorized access to their GPA and LSAT scores, as well as undergraduate records. As for this July’s exam-takers, Mr. McAlary said, they were “better candidates” with higher incoming LSAT scores who were “better prepared” than last year’s group. Mr. McAlary said passage rates generally fluctuate “a point or two, up or down” in each category. But this year, he said, “no question about it, these [improved] numbers are significant. We’re impressed.” He ventured an opinion about the second year of the increased passing score. “People were on notice about that,” he said. “I can only speculate, but I think it had an impact.” Thomas Adcock can be reached at [email protected]

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