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Graduates of Texas law schools slipped a little on the latest bar examination, dropping the pass rate for the July 2002 test by several percentage points compared to July 2001 results. Seven of the state’s nine accredited law schools fell slightly from 2001, decreasing the overall pass rate for first-time test-takers of the July 2002 bar exam to 80.94 percent, down from 85.45 percent last July. The total pass rate this year for everyone, including repeaters and out-of-staters, was 73.5 percent. This summer, 2,532 potential lawyers took the test, 1,595 of whom were Texas students tackling it for the first time, according to the Board of Law Examiners in Austin. Baylor Law School in Waco and the University of Texas School of Law in Austin repeated their one-two finish from last year with first-timer pass rates of 94 percent and 92.43 respectively. With a first-time test-taker pass rate of 90.24 percent, Dallas’ Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law ranked third. The University of Houston Law Center followed close on its heels, with 89.35 percent of its graduates scoring passing marks. Other pass rates for first-time test-takers were 84.33 percent for Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock; 81.91 percent for Texas Wesleyan School of Law in Fort Worth; 72.8 percent for South Texas College of Law in Houston; 61.8 percent for St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio; and 46.43 percent for Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston. Although his students continued a trend of a pass rate below the statewide average, St. Mary’s law dean Bill Piatt is upbeat about future exams. He expects his students to start doing better because of an increase in the number of applicants and the tightening of academic standards, which he contends became lax in the 1990s. “I’m disappointed about the pass rate this year, but I’m very optimistic that we’ll see increased performance with the class of 2003,” the dean says. “I congratulate the efforts of other law schools in Texas that are doing real well on the bar. We all have an obligation to produce graduates who can successfully pass the bar and represent clients. What I hope to see is a modest but significant improvement next year, but after that our goal is to reach or exceed the statewide average by 2006. I’m confident we’ll meet that goal.” McKen Carrington, the interim dean at Thurgood Marshall, did not return two calls seeking comment before presstime on Nov. 7. The school perennially scores low, usually at the bottom, but officials say their mission at the institution is to offer opportunities to students who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance at a legal education. The school graduates the majority of new minority lawyers in the state. Julia Vaughan, executive director of the Board of Law Examiners, says the July 2002 numbers are similar to previous years. “We typically have a cluster of five or six schools that do well,” she says. “We didn’t find it to be different from the norm.”

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