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Georgia State University College of Law graduates shut out their in-state rivals on Georgia’s February bar exam, posting the highest scores across the board. GSU grads had the highest average scores on the Multistate Bar Exam, and they had the highest pass rates for both first-time and repeat test takers. Despite the good showing by GSU, its scores and pass rates were lower than last year, as were those of all other Georgia schools. The state Supreme Court Office of Bar Admissions said that 238 of the 439 lawyer-hopefuls who took the exam passed. That’s a 54.2 percent pass rate, a 5.2 percent drop from last year’s pass rate for the winter exam, and just a step up from the low set 20 years ago. In February 1984, when more students took the February exam than the one in July, the pass rate was 53 percent, according to Hulett H. “Bucky” Askew, director of bar admissions. GSU had the most graduates sit for the exam of ABA-accredited schools: 43. First-time test takers had an 81.8 percent pass rate, and the school’s overall pass rate was 72 percent. “I’m thrilled,” said Janice C. Griffith, the dean of GSU’s law school. “It’s great to be number one.” She added, “But I also realize that this is the February bar exam and all ABA-accredited schools did well.” The February bar exam usually has fewer test takers than the July exam, when many traditional students take the test. “We have a part-time program, so some of our students who graduate in December take the February exam.” She said GSU has had larger 2004 and 2005 classes, which means more students are taking the exam. Emory University, which had the highest winter pass rate for the past six years, posted the second-highest pass rate this year, both among first-time test takers and overall. Fifteen Emory grads took the test, and nine passed, or 60 percent. First-timers had a pass rate of 77.7 percent. The University of Georgia placed third among overall test takers. Twelve of 23 grads passed, or 52.1 percent. First-timers had a pass rate of 70 percent. That put UGA just behind Mercer’s 71.4 percent pass rate among first-timers. Mercer had an overall pass rate of 45.4 percent. But Askew cautioned not to read too much into the February bar pass results. “On February results, it’s hard and even dangerous to draw any generalized conclusions because the pool [of test takers] is so small. The difference of one or two people can have a dramatic percentage difference” on a school’s score, he said. John Marshall Law School graduates continued to struggle with the exam. Eight of 59 John Marshall graduates passed, or 13.5 percent. That was slightly better than the school’s 13.4 percent pass rate last year, which had marked a five-year low. Of 12 first-time examinees, three passed, or 25 percent, which matched last year’s score. The school is seeking American Bar Association accreditation. Atlanta Law School and Woodrow Wilson College of Law, both now closed, each had one graduate take the test. Neither passed. Of lawyers admitted in another state, 81 of 92 who took the test passed, a rate of 88 percent. MBE SCORES DIP All Georgia schools slipped in their MBE scores. The MBE is the multiple-choice portion of the Georgia test. GSU scored highest on the MBE, with an average score of 141.5, but that was a 3.4 point drop over it’s 144.9 average score last year. Emory dropped 5.7 points this year, with an average score of 137.2. UGA’s average score dipped 2.7 points to 133.8, and Mercer dipped 3.6 points to 132.9. Nationally, the MBE mean was 135.9, similar to the February 2003 score, said Askew. Askew said he couldn’t explain the lower scores on the MBE portion, but that Georgia test takers scored less than the national average. “This also was a very challenging exam,” said Askew. “Of course, the students always think it’s the hardest MBE ever given. “But the essay questions were very challenging this time.” Askew added that scores from year to year are evened out by a scaling system used by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which produces and sells the tests. He said the tests and scoring are “highly valid and fair.” Askew added that the Bar Admissions board will meet with law school deans next week. “I imagine [the scores] will be a topic of discussion … and I imagine what the deans will say is that it’s a small pool. The results do not have the sort of impact that July results do. But they will be looking to gather more information on the students, their law school histories, and what may have been going on [in their lives] when they took the exam. But they don’t have enough information today” to determine why the scores dropped, said Askew. Based on previous meetings with the deans, the Bar Admissions board dropped some subjects from the exam. Federal income tax law was dropped because so few students took classes on the subject, said Askew. The subject of corporations, agency and partnership is now tested differently, he added, because of the ways schools are teaching it. FEWER WINTER TEST TAKERS The February bar exam usually has fewer test takers because many graduates will sit for the July exam, which is just months after May graduation ceremonies. The number of February test takers has dropped over the years. In 1999, 607 people sat for the winter test. This year, 439 took the test, a 28 percent drop. February test takers often include nontraditional students who graduate off-schedule, or out-of-state lawyers who are seeking admission to the Georgia Bar. Fewer people are taking the winter bar exam, said Askew, in part because of a new rule that allows lawyers from other states to be admitted to the bar by motion. In 2003, 144 lawyers were admitted by motion, many of whom would have taken the bar exam, said Askew. While in-state graduates usually do better on the bar exam, the pass rate of out-of-state examinees wasn’t much lower this year. First-time test takers from Georgia’s ABA-accredited schools had a pass rate of 77.9 percent this year, compared to 75.7 percent for first-timers from out-of-state schools.

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