Lowering the bar

The bar passage rate of UC Davis School of Law students has plummeted 17 percentage points in the last 10 years, according to the State Bar of California. But UCD Law School Dean Rex Perschbacher says it’s nothing to worry about.

In July 1997, 93 percent of UCD law students passed the bar on their first attempt, a higher rate than top-tier schools such as Stanford and UC Berkeley, where students passed the bar at rates of 91 percent and 89 percent, respectively. After years of steady declines, last year, just 76 percent of UCD students passed the state bar, a decline of 17 percent. While Stanford and Berkeley’s rates have wavered little, Davis now barely outranks cross-town contemporary McGeorge Law School, where students passed the bar at a rate of 73 percent.

Most schools in California have experienced a dip in their passing percentage, Perschbacher said. According to the state bar, the passage rate for accredited schools has slid from the low 80s in 1997 to the low 70s in 2006. Perscbacher attributed the declining rates to nationwide changes in the bar examination.

“Generally, across the country, there’s some desire to make passage through the bar exam into practice harder,” Perschbacher said.

Perschbacher said the university is taking steps to improve its bar performance. However, he cautioned that simply passing the state bar exam is in no way an accurate predictor of becoming a successful attorney.

“You fill up your tub with all these legal rules, you take the bar exam, you pull the plug, you drain them away,” he said. “They’re not going to be what you need day-to-day as a lawyer.”