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University of Georgia law graduates boasted the highest score on July’s Multistate Bar Exam, but Emory University law grads had a better pass rate. Emory University School of Law Dean Thomas C. Arthur was gracious about the results. “I think one thing it shows, if you look at the results over time, is that frankly, all the ABA-approved schools do well.” He added, “It’s almost random who doesn’t pass. If someone decided not to take a bar review course and decided to wing it that day.” He emphasized, “I don’t think it’s right to rank it. All the ABA-approved schools are doing a good job. We’re always happy, and it’s fun to say our grads did slightly better, but it seems to me how much better they did is statistically insignificant. We’re first this year. We could be last next year.” The July bar examinees were informed Friday how they fared on the test that determines whether they may practice law in Georgia. The Office of Bar Admissions released the results to the public Monday. Emory posted a pass rate for first-time test takers of 94.1 percent. Georgia State University, UGA and Mercer University posted first-time pass rates of 92.6, 91.5 and 84.5, respectively. In a sharp turnaround, John Marshall School of Law, which is not approved by the American Bar Association, saw a marked improvement in its first-time pass rate, which surged to 42.8 percent, its highest pass rate since 1998. Overall, 75.7 percent of those who took the test passed, continuing a decline over the past few years, from 80.5 percent in 2001 and 77.6 percent in 2002. The number of test takers has declined as well. Last year, 1,204 people sat for the July exam, compared to 1,134 this year. Hulett H. “Bucky” Askew, director of bar admissions, said that decline might reflect the smaller entering class sizes at Emory and Mercer. That results in fewer graduates sitting for the exam, he said. He also explained that about 50 percent of Emory grads usually test in other states, and that number may be on the rise. “Georgia may not be attracting as many out-of-state test takers as we used to,” Askew said. In-state test takers fared better than out-of-state, as usual. Of the 489 Georgia first-timers who took the test, 444 passed, or 90.7 percent. That’s compared to 80.8 percent of the 429 out-of-state grads who passed, or 347. First-time test takers also fared better than repeat examinees. Of 939 first-timers, 800 passed, or 85.1 percent. Of 195 repeat examinees, 59 passed, with a pass rate 30.2 percent. The average Georgia Multistate Bar Exam score this year was only 1 percent better than the national average, a decline over previous results. The MBE, the multiple-choice portion of the bar exam, is used in most states and includes questions on legal principles. Of the 859 examinees who passed, the average MBE score was 142.6, compared to the national average of 141.5, according to Askew. “When I first got the MBE scores, I thought that the pass rate would be lower,” said Askew, “And it was, though it was still in the norm. But the four ABA-approved Georgia schools do so well the overall pass rate was still higher than I expected given the MBE scores.” Those schools’ average MBE scores stayed steady, at about 147. For the second year, UGA had the highest MBE average compared to its Georgia peers, or 148.2, though that was lower than last year’s 149.9. Emory was next, with an average of 147, besting last year’s 145.7. GSU was third, scoring 146.8, which also was lower than its 2002 score of 148.4. Mercer ranked fourth, with a score of 146.1, which was more than 2 points higher than the 144 posted last year. Askew said those scores reflect the quality of Georgia’s law schools and the caliber of students. He called graduates from those four schools “bright and motivated,” and he said the scores were fairly typical. John Marshall demonstrated a big improvement, though it still lagged behind the other schools. Last year, 27.2 percent of first-timers passed the bar exam compared to 42.8 percent who cleared the hurdle this year, or nine of 21 examinees. In 2001, only 20 percent of first-timers passed. The highest score John Marshall achieved recently was in February 1998, when 53.1 percent of first-time test takers passed. Askew said he expects John Marshall’s scores to continue to rise. “I think their dean believes they will continue this progression upwards due to changes he’s made in curriculum,” Askew said. None of the nine Atlanta Law School graduates or two Woodrow Wilson College of Law grads who sat for the test passed. Askew said those schools have been closed since the early 1990s.

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