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Jerome Braun thinks he knows why the pass rate for the July bar exam was a miserable 48.2 percent. A few years back, many of the best and brightest that might have gone to law school opted instead for the “money” and the “glory” of the dot-com industry, the State Bar’s senior executive for admissions told Bar leaders last week. That left many of the state’s more than 60 law schools with a lesser tier of students, Braun said, resulting in a pass rate that has spiraled down from 56.9 percent in 2001. Now, however, he said, law school professors report that many of the dot-commers have rethought their careers and taken up the law. In fact, he said, many claim that this year’s crop of law students is one of the best in memory. “If that’s true,” Braun told a captivated audience, “you ought to see the pass rate go back up in the next two to three years.” He pointed out that the worst performances on the July test came from the less prestigious schools, such as Golden Gate University School of Law and Whittier College School of Law, where pass rates have fallen from the mid 50s a few years ago to the 30s. Such schools, he said, are competing against powerhouses like UCLA, the University of Southern California, UC-Davis, Boalt Hall and Stanford. Even at the height of the dot-com mania, Braun said, the higher-ranked schools maintained a pass rate in the high 80s.

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