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For all those wannabe lawyers who failed California’s July bar examination, don’t be too upset: You’ve got plenty of company. According to results released by the state Bar over the weekend, only slightly more than half of the 7,511 applicants passed the summer exam. Officially, the pass rate was 50.5 percent. “They’re lower than they have been in recent times,” Jerome Braun, senior executive for admissions, said Monday. Indeed, the pass rate is the lowest in 15 years, going all the way back to 1987 when only 50.3 percent passed the test. And it’s a sharp plunge from last year’s summer pass rate, which stood at 56.9 percent. Braun said the results are “reflective” of a drop in recent years in the multistate bar exam, the segment of the test featuring multiple-choice questions. “It’s been dropping in California for the last four or five years,” he said. “It’s come down five or six points, and you see the pass rates are also coming down.” Even so, if those who passed the exam satisfy other requirements, including moral character tests, California will soon have 3,793 more lawyers. As it stands now, the state has more than 140,000 active lawyers. Counting inactive lawyers, judges and attorneys not entitled to practice law, the figure rises to nearly 188,000. The pass rate for first-time test takers, of which there were 5,168 this summer, also fell this year — from about 70 percent last year to 64.5 percent. The previous low was two years ago when only 64.3 percent of first-timers passed. Braun said the first-time pass rate is driven primarily by applicants from schools approved by the American Bar Association. Usually, they are from the premier law schools and “they tend to do better,” he said. That’s borne out by Monday’s statistics, which show that 68.5 percent of first-time applicants from California schools approved by the ABA passed the exam, while 66.5 percent of students from ABA-approved schools outside the state passed. By comparison, only 29.7 percent of the applicants from schools accredited by the state Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners passed the test. The pass rate for students from non-accredited schools stood at 20 percent. California’s bar exam consists of three parts: a multiple-choice exam, six essay questions and two performance tests aimed at assessing an applicant’s ability to apply general knowledge to practical tasks. The exam is given in July and in February. Compared with the summer test, results from the winter test are normally lower because it has a higher percentage of repeat applicants. For example, last winter only 33.4 percent of the applicants succeeded. The 2,343 repeat test takers for the July exam didn’t fare very well either, with only 19.6 percent passing. That’s compared with 27 percent last year. Completing the across-the-board drop, only 141 of the 364 lawyers who took the attorney examination passed. That amounted to a pass rate of 38.7 percent, a big drop from the 52.8 percent last year. The attorney exam is open to lawyers who have practiced for at least four years in a jurisdiction outside California. Bar officials have no explanation for this year’s bad showing. “Each group is unique, so you’re going to expect some variation,” Braun said. “While the drop is kind of a hefty one, it’s not out of the range of where the scores have been over the last years.” Statistics show that the overall bar exam pass rate for July has wavered between 50 percent and 60 percent in the past 20 years. In July 1994, the pass rate soared to 63.2 percent. Braun has words of inspiration for those who failed the July exam. “Don’t give up hope,” he said. “If you keep at it, the statistics say you will pass by the third or fourth time. If you have a decent legal education and you apply yourself, you will pass the examination.” Swearing-in ceremonies will be held across the state Dec. 3-5. Related chart: Calif. Summer Bar Exam Results

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