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Each time the results of the bar exam are made public, the state’s Office of Bar Admissions hunkers down for a few days to deal with the wrath of the unsuccessful test taker. And this time is no different. Of the 412 applicants whose results on this year’s February bar exam were released last week, 60 percent passed. That means that 165 aspirants failed to become practicing lawyers. As usual, Hulett H. “Bucky” Askew is getting calls from those who fell short, some of them confused or angry and calling for advice, to express their frustration or just looking for a friendly ear. “Many of them are wrestling with whether to take the next exam,” said Askew, the office’s director. “Many of them just want to vent. They can’t understand why they can’t quite make it over the hump.” The smaller pool of applicants for the February exam — most new graduates take the July test — makes comparisons among the state’s law schools more a matter of curiosity than a real yardstick of achievement. Georgia State University led all state law schools in pass percentage among first-time test takers, with 12 of its 14 applicants passing the bar. The University of Georgia’s first-time takers ranked second, as seven of the school’s nine first-time applicants earned a passing grade. Twelve of Emory University’s 16 rookie applicants passed the exam, and three of Mercer University’s five first-time applicants passed. Among overall applicants, Georgia State University also ranked highest, as 22 of 29 prospective lawyers passed. Emory University posted the second-highest overall pass rate, with 18 of 24 hopefuls earning a passing mark. Fourteen of the University of Georgia’s 19 candidates passed the exam, and seven of 10 applicants from Mercer University passed. Repeat test takers from Atlanta’s now-defunct law schools continued to struggle. Two applicants from Atlanta Law School and one from the Woodrow Wilson College of Law failed the exam. And despite John Marshall Law School’s recent resurgence — the school was accredited by the American Bar Association in February — it continues to suffer from the performance of former students. Of the 39 repeat testers, only seven passed the exam. Two John Marshall graduates took the exam for the first time, and neither passed. Overall, 75 percent of first-time test takers passed the exam. This is marginally lower than the first-time pass rate last year, when nearly 78 percent of rookie testers passed. In 2003, about 75 percent of first-timers passed. Askew warned not to read too much into the results of the February test, as the already small pool of test takers continues to dwindle. The number of applicants for the winter exam has dropped by about a third since 1999, when 607 hopefuls took the February test. Many applicants who take the February test already practice law in another state and perhaps seek to work for a Georgia firm. About a quarter of the test takers already practice law elsewhere and another 286 applicants graduated from out-of-state law schools. Askew said the 2005 statistics closely mirror results from recent February exams. Still, he joked, his office isn’t hearing much feedback from the successful applicants. “We don’t get any thank-you calls from those who passed, I can tell you that,” Askew said. “But they’re celebrating out there somewhere.”

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