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Monday was a good day at the State Bar of California, as officials announced that the pass rate for the February bar examination reached a five-year high. “We’re very happy that the pass rate went up,” said Jerome Braun, the State Bar’s director of admissions. “Whether this is a trend or not, I don’t know.” Of the 4,520 applicants for the Feb. 22-24 exam, 40 percent — 1,810 — passed. That tied the pass rate for the February 2000 test and was 4.7 percentage points higher than last year. “We don’t know why the scores went up,” Braun said, pointing out that each field of applicants has its own talents and abilities. “We’re just happy that it did.” “When more people can meet the standard that’s been established, that’s fine,” he added. “That means there are more lawyers that the people of California can turn to for legal services.” The highest passing rate for the February exam in the past 25 years was 50.9 percent in 1992 and the lowest was 27.7 in 1983. Braun was especially pleased that the mean scaled score of the multistate bar examination — the multiple choice portion of the three-pronged exam — increased from 1,392 last year to 1,406. The national average is 1,377. Braun said that when the multistate bar examination scores go up, so do the applicants’ pass rates. According to the State Bar, 28.3 percent of the applicants were taking the test for the first time. Of those 1,281 people, 54.4 percent passed. The pass rate for those who attended California law schools approved by the American Bar Association was 57.7 percent; from ABA schools outside the state, 58 percent; from schools accredited by the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners but not the ABA, 25.9 percent; for those who went to unaccredited law schools, 3.7 percent; and for students from correspondence schools, 42.1 percent. The pass rate was 34.4 percent for the 3,239 applicants repeating the test. The pass rate was 42.9 percent for those who attended ABA-approved California law schools; 37.6 percent for applicants from ABA schools outside of the state; 18.7 percent for test-takers from schools accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners; 11.6 for unaccredited law schools; and 20.2 percent for correspondence schools. In addition, 54.5 percent of the 376 lawyers who took the attorneys’ exam passed, compared with 54.1 percent last year. That exam is open to attorneys who have practiced in other jurisdictions for at least four years. The three-day bar examination is given in February and July, and consists of the MBE, six essay questions and two performance tests designed to assess an applicant’s ability to apply legal knowledge to practical tasks. Scores are normally higher for the summer exam because there are more first-time applicants. Successful applicants can take the oath to practice law individually or during admissions ceremonies statewide starting next month. To be admitted to the Bar, however, applicants must first pass the multistate professional responsibility exam, receive a positive moral character determination and be in good standing on family or child support payments. Braun said Monday he expects better results in the future. “Law school deans,” he said, “have been telling me for two or three years that the groups entering [law school] are far abler as far as SAT scores than the groups entering a few years earlier.”

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