Bar Passage Rate Leaps 8 Percentage Points for New Richardson Law School Graduates

October 31, 2013

The bar passage rate for newly-minted graduates of the William S. Richardson School of Law rose from 75 percent annually over the past three years to 83 percent for the July 2013 Hawai‘i State Bar exam.

There was also a decided increase in the passage rate for all Richardson graduates who took the test, up to 78 percent from 71 percent a year ago.

The jump in passage rates follows a concerted effort by the Law School to get students thinking about the bar exam earlier and to help them prepare.

“Even excellent students often face challenges on the bar exam. We’ve just tried to raise awareness among students,” said Liam Skilling, director of the Law School’s Academic Success Program.

“We provide a number of workshops to give students information about what they can expect, as well as practice opportunities so they can have the experience of taking real bar questions even before starting their bar preparation.”

“We have a nice bar passage rate in the worst of days,” said Skilling, “but it’s certainly good to see the numbers going up and seeing more students passing on their first attempt.”

Bar passage rates are an important element when prospective students are searching for the right law school, as well as for rankings by U.S. News & World Report.         

Law Dean Avi Soifer said that the increased passage rate is both a testament to the efforts of the Richardson faculty and staff, but also to the high quality of the students themselves.

“Richardson Law School students are exceptional, and now that we have helped them focus on the bar exam, they have risen to the challenge admirably,” said Soifer.

Over the last several years, law schools nationwide have seen bar passage rates drop.

“When the numbers dropped three years ago, that was part of a national trend,” said Skilling. “Bar passage rates dropped in every state in the country in 2010. We really don’t know why. Schools have done various things to respond.

“It matters to all of us so much, knowing that what we’re doing helps students realize their aspirations,” added Skilling. “You cannot be a lawyer without passing the bar.”

The Law School has added several workshops each semester that help students map out their plans for preparing for the bar. Students are also taking bar-related courses more frequently, and looking for opportunities for more experiences that reflect bar exam preparation.

“We don’t want students to do nothing but prepare for the bar,” said Skilling, “but it’s important that students be aware, right from the start of law school, that their learning doesn’t end with graduation, but continues through sitting for and passing the bar exam.”