Florida International University College of Law. Photo: J.Albert Diaz/ALM

Florida International University had the highest passing rate among first-time test takers sitting for the Florida Bar exam in February, according to results released Monday.

Eighty-five percent or 17 of the 20 FIU students who took the exam passed, according to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.

“A bar exam is a reflection of not only the dedicated administrators, personnel and faculty, but of the writing program and the dedicated students who are determined to do it,” said acting FIU law dean and law professor Tawia B. Ansah. “I think we have a really great program.”

Nearly 58 percent, or 369 of 637 candidates, succeeded at the exam administered Feb. 27-28 in Tampa. The high court admitted 165 of them to the bar. The exam is the smaller of the two administered each year, and pass rates and rankings tend to vary greatly from the July exam.

FIU beat out Ave Maria School of Law, which took second with an 84.6 percent pass rate with 11 of 13 candidates succeeding.

“I’m extremely proud of our Ave Law alumni bar takers,” Ave Maria law president and dean Kevin Cieply said in a statement. “This shows that our students are putting in the time, and their hard work is paying off. … Ave Law continues to grow stronger, and I’m proud of every single individual who is a part of our community.”

Florida State University was third with 76.7 percent passing.

About 62 percent of Florida Coastal School of Law’s candidates succeeded for fourth place, while Stetson University and University of Miami tied for fifth place at 56 percent.

The University of Florida College of Law came in last with a 31.8 percent success rate with seven of 22 students passing. A statement attributed to its dean, Laura A. Rosenbury, called the results “a clear wake-up call for the entire law school.”

“We are beyond disappointed in the performance of our students on the February bar exam. The results are utterly unacceptable given the caliber of our students and the quality of their education,” according to the statement. “The efforts we undertook prior to the February bar exam were clearly insufficient. We will be increasing the support we provide to the students taking the July, 2018 bar exam. We have a long tradition at UF Law of respecting our students’ autonomy and control over the courses they take. Given these shocking and disheartening results, we are rethinking this approach and doubling down on our intervention strategy.”

Students from schools outside Florida fared slightly better. Of 122, nearly 37 percent succeeded.

FIU has been a consistent top performer, outpacing other schools in the July General Bar Examination, which drew 3,247 applicants. Back then, it beat out UM, which had an 84.2 percent pass rate for second place, and Florida State University, which came in third with 83.9 percent.

“I am hoping that success feeds on itself. So when a class recognizes that their peers in the past have excelled, they want to be a part of that culture, that history,” Ansah said. “It’s an extra motivation that makes them want to do well. They’re really determined.”

 

 

Here’s how the law schools stacked up: