Less than 83 percent of UNC's Law School graduates are passing the bar exam, and some of the school's administrators believe a difficult state bar and inconsistent data collection methods may account for the low rate.
According to Inside Higher Ed, 218 of UNC Law School’s 2015 graduates took the bar exam, a test used to determine if a person is qualified to practice law, within two years of graduation, but only 180 of them passed the test. The passage rate was 82.6 percent. That rate is one of the lowest in North Carolina.
Inside Higher Ed reported law passage rates for four other North Carolina law schools: North Carolina Central University had an 82.2 percent passage rate, Elon University had an 87.1 percent rate, Duke University had an 89 percent rate and Campbell University had a 97.9 percent rate.
Law school Associate Dean for Strategy Jeffrey Hirsch said data variance and North Carolina’s difficult bar exam may account for the school’s low passage rate.
“The ABA for the first time this year began collecting data on all students who took a bar exam, including repeat test takers. However, because schools were not aware that they needed to track all of this information, the data seems pretty unreliable to me, especially for comparison purposes,” Hirsch said.
He said that most Carolina Law graduates take the state of North Carolina’s bar exam. Hirsch said that compared with the state’s average pass rates, UNC Law graduates perform well.
“One important thing to remember when interpreting bar passage rates is that states can differ significantly in their difficulty, including the content that is covered on the exam and the score required to pass the exam," Hirsch said. "Indeed, North Carolina recently has become one of the hardest bar exams in the country. The only three states with a lower pass rate than North Carolina’s were Rhode Island, Arizona and Mississippi.”
He said although the 2015 rate was less than 83 percent, it was 18.21 percent higher than the state average of 64.7 percent, and that in 2017, 83.2 percent of UNC Law graduates passed the N.C. bar, which was 18.6 percent higher than that year’s state average.
“Support for the bar exam is one of the many great services provided under our Academic Excellence Program,” said UNC Law Director of Academic Excellence Program OJ Salinas.