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Graduates from Florida International University’s new law school passed the latest Florida Bar admission exam at a higher rate than graduates from any of the state’s other nine accredited law schools. Nova Southeastern University’s grads passed at the lowest rate. Eighteen FIU grads took the test in February in Orlando, and 17 passed, for a bar passage rate of 94.4 percent. FIU’s success rate was followed by Florida State University, with 88.2 percent of its 34 grads passing, the University of Florida, with 83.3 percent of 156 passing, Stetson University, with 82.1 percent of 112 passing, and the University of Miami, with 76.9 percent of 26 passing. Compared with February of last year, St. Thomas University law school in Miami was among the most improved with a 74.2 percent passage rate. In February of 2006, its students scored a 35.5 percent passage rate. In July 2006, that rate was 63.1 percent and in July 2005, the rate was 57.9 percent. New St. Thomas law school Dean Alfredo Garcia said that he optimistic that his graduates’ bar passage rates will continue to improve in the future. “I attribute it to the hard work of the faculty and the students, and I think that to a large extent, the results are attributable to the tight academic standards and rigor we have instituted in the past three years which is finally yielding fruit,” Garcia said. Bob Butterworth, who was hired as St. Thomas University’s law school dean in May 2003 and recently left to become the secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, was brought on in part to raise the school’s bar passage rate. More law school grads take the test in July than in February. FIU founding law school dean Leonard Strickman said the new rankings demonstrate “not that we’re better than everyone else but that we belong in the grouping of the top law schools in Florida.” FIU convened its first law school class in 2002. At the bottom of the pack, 11 graduates of Florida A&M’s troubled law school passed at a rate of 52.4 percent, while 24 graduates of Nova Southeastern passed a rate of 48 percent. In February 2006, 56.4 percent of NSU graduates passed the test. On Tuesday afternoon, NSU’s law faculty discussed the school’s low bar passage rates during a regularly scheduled faculty meeting. Members of Nova’s administration did not return calls by deadline. “We have to be careful of a knee-jerk reaction,” said Nova law professor Robert Jarvis in an interview before the meeting began. “It’s one exam, one administration of the exam and a small group of students.” In July 2006, nearly 75 percent of NSU grads passed the test. In February 2006, only 56.4 percent of the NSU law graduates who took the bar exam passed. In July 2005, the NSU passage rate was 65 percent. Statistics from past years show that the law school bar passages rates can vary significantly from year to year, though graduates of the University of Florida, Florida State, Stetson and Florida International have consistently finished near the top. FIU’s Strickman said he doesn’t expect his graduates to continue passing the bar exam at rates above all the other schools, but he hopes they continue to do well. Jarvis said he wasn’t certain how to boost the bar exam success rate for NSU grads. He does not plan to change how he teaches any courses as a result of his school’s low passage rate. “If I had a magic answer, I wouldn’t be a law professor,” Jarvis said. “I would be going around the country selling this patented answer and making a lot of money.” Jordana Mishory can be reached at [email protected]

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