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Graduates of Texas law schools showed their stuff in the latest bar examination, pushing the passage rate for first-time takers up several percentage points over last year’s results. Eight of the state’s nine schools showed increases in the July pass rate, which upped the overall total for the first-timers to 85.45 percent. The total pass rate for everyone — first-time test-takers, repeaters and out-of-staters — was 79.43 percent. Of the 2,542 potential lawyers who sat for the exam, 1,595 were Texas students sweating through it for the first time. Last year, 81.74 percent of the 1,506 Texas students taking the exam for the first time in July passed. The overall pass rate for the 2,340 summer 2000 test-takers was 75.51 percent. This July, Baylor University Law School in Waco had the highest first-time pass rate, at 95.12 percent. A close second was the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, where 94.83 percent of first-timers did well. UT had about four times as many first-time test-takers sitting for the exam as Baylor had, 329 to 82. Other pass rates include 92.7 percent for the University of Houston Law Center; 89.1 percent for Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock; and 86.89 percent for Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas. DEANS REACT Baylor law Dean Bradley J.B. Toben says his school has bright students, a faculty that is committed to teaching and high expectations. “When you combine all these, students are in the best position for success,” he says. Susana Aleman, UT law’s assistant dean of student affairs, says that graduates study hard for the exam. “We also like to think our professors had a little something to do with it,” she says. Nancy Rapoport, dean of the UH Law Center, and John Attanasio, her counterpart at the Dedman law school, are pleased with their schools’ showing. Rapoport, a graduate of Stanford Law School who practiced law in California, passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam to be licensed in Texas and will be sworn in on Nov. 13. Attanasio says the school’s primary mission is to train leaders in the legal, governmental and community fields, but that it’s also important to prepare students to complete the bar exam successfully. At South Texas College of Law in Houston, president and dean Frank T. Read says that his school emphasizes the importance of the bar exam and that he’s pleased with his graduates’ 84.07 percent pass rate. However, he points out that it’s more important to look at trends rather than one particular exam score. He says a figure that reflects well is the 66.67 percent pass rate among repeat test-takers from South Texas, a 20 percent jump from July 2000. The only drop from July 2000 was at Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston. Of the 89 students who sat for the exam for the first time, 41, or 46.07 percent, passed, the lowest rate among the nine schools. A low pass rate has been a longtime problem for Thurgood Marshall, which, as part of its mission, gives educational opportunities to students who don’t have the strongest academic predictors. Dean John Brittain points out that the July rate increased from February 2001′s test, when only 35.85 percent of the first-time test-takers from his school passed. Following that showing, the university and the law school implemented a plan to improve results, he says. “The cycle of the implementation of the plan revolves over a two- to three-year period, with an adjustment to admissions, a revision in the curriculum and the implementation of a new pre-bar review program in the last semester of a law student’s matriculation,” Brittain says. Benefits from that plan will begin showing up with the July 2003 exam results, he says. Details of the plan will be included in a report, due Nov. 15, to the American Bar Association, which has expressed concern over the Thurgood Marshall passage rate. “Meanwhile, we will continue with our efforts with the students who are currently enrolled to prepare them to pass the bar at a higher rate,” Brittain says. The biggest change came from graduates of Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth, with 85.71 percent passing on the first try, an increase of 20 percent over July 2000. Students at St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio reversed a slide in summer scores, pushing the pass rate up to 69.57 percent, an 11 percent increase from July 2000. At Texas Wesleyan, students understand the importance of passing the bar exam, and faculty members are dedicated to giving them the attention they need, law Dean Richard Gershon says. The dean says he’s pleased with the results, but adds, “I won’t be satisfied until every one of our students passes the bar on the first try.” Bill Piatt, who’s in his fourth year as dean of St. Mary’s law school, attributes the increase at his school partly to the Texas law courses that students are encouraged to take. St. Mary’s has implemented a schedule that gives the students time to take the classes, which cover material on the bar exam, he says. In addition, the school has tightened its academic requirements and is accepting fewer students, which leads to smaller classes and more individual attention, Piatt says. This year, 239 students made up the entering class; previously, the first-year classes had been about 275. “We have an obligation to a system of justice in Texas to accept only those people who will have a realistic chance of success,” Piatt says. He adds, “We’re optimistic that we will be able to close the gap in our bar passage rates with other schools.” Related charts: Complete list of Texas bar admittees Pass rates school by school Seeresults for Texas and other states

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