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It is a good time to be a Seminole. For the second time in a row the Florida State University College of Law has had the highest percentage of graduates pass the Florida bar exam. According to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, 90.2 percent of FSU law grads taking the July bar exam passed. In the previous test, in February, FSU led the state with 85.3 percent of its graduates passing the bar. By contrast, just 49.4 percent of St. Thomas University School of Law grads passed the recent bar exam, the worst performance among the South Florida law schools. The private, Catholic law school that opened in 1984 now faces stiff competition from Florida International University’s new, publicly funded law school. St. Thomas’ dean, John Makdisi, recently announced that he will step down in August 2003. While declining to detail why he will resign his post, Makdisi said it is unrelated to the exam performance of St. Thomas graduates. “I stated my intention to resign in an Aug. 29 letter before the bar statistics were released. We just did not announce until now,” said Makdisi, who added that he would continue to teach at St. Thomas. Barry University in Orlando, a branch of the Catholic university in Miami Shores, fared the worst of Florida’s law schools. Only 40.9 percent of graduates taking the bar exam passed. The troubled law school finally received provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association in February after being twice denied. This fall Florida’s two new publicly funded law schools, FIU and the Florida A&M College of Law in Orlando, opened their doors. The state now has a total of 10 law schools. The state bar exam is given twice each year, in February and in July. The percentages provided by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners are for first-time test-takers only. The bar exam results essentially broke down into two tiers. The top group included, in addition to FSU, Stetson University College of Law, University of Florida’s Levin College of Law and the University of Miami School of Law. UM had the most graduates taking and passing the exam, but ranked fourth with 84.7 percent passing the test. Stetson was No. 2 with 87.6 percent and the University of Florida was No. 3 with 86.9 percent. Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center ranked sixth, with a 71.3 percentage passage rate. One school in the bottom tier was clearly delighted with the results of the July exam. Florida Coastal College of Law in Jacksonville, which opened its doors in 1996 and just received full accreditation from the ABA last month, had 77.6 percent of its graduates pass. Previously, the school’s bar passage numbers had been in the mid-50 percent range. Elated with the results, Florida Coastal dean J. Richard Hurt said, “For a new law school, a good bar passage rate is a very high priority. It is important to establish credibility with the bench, Bar and students. This bar passage number is as big a step for us as getting full accreditation.” Those who failed the bar exam in July can try again in February and for as many times until they pass.

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