An on-the-rise surprise: Florida Bar exam results are up over last two years
A scene from a Florida bar exam. Image via Tampa Convention Center.

The summer results are a turnaround from poor showings in recent years.

The number of Florida bar exam takers who pass on the first try has jolted to nearly 74 percent, from 67.2 percent last year, the state’s Board of Bar Examiners announced Monday.

The latest overall passage rate of 73.9 percent for this July’s examination is a 6.7 percent jump from last July’s results, and up from July 2017’s 71.3 percent pass rate. A few highlights:

— Florida International University College of Law took the top spot among Florida law schools, with 111 out of 116 first-time takers passing, or 95.7 percent.

— Nova Southeastern University College of Law went up 23 percentage points year over year, to 65.9 percent passing from 42.9 percent.

— And the beleaguered Florida Coastal School of Law went up considerably over the last two years, to 71 percent of first-time takers passing this July from 47.7 percent in July 2017—a 23.3 percentage point jump.

The summer results are a turnaround from poor showings in Florida and in other states in recent years, as law schools lowered admission standards to fill seats as the number of overall applicants declined.

Of all the 2,066 first-time takers this summer’s exam—held July 30-31 in Tampa—1,526 passed. Last July, 2,228 first-timers took the exam and 1,497 passed.

This July, there were a total of 3,162 test-takers, including repeat takers. More law students traditionally take the exam in the summer, immediately after graduation and bar review. A smaller number, including those who fail the summer exam, take the bar in the winter.

Here are the July 2019 passage rates for first-timers, broken down by individual Florida law school, with last July’s results in parentheses:

Florida International University College of Law — 95.7 percent (88.1 percent)

University of Florida College of Law — 87.9 percent (70.9 percent)

Florida State University College of Law — 86.8 percent (84.8 percent)

University of Miami School of Law — 80.8 percent (83.2 percent)

Stetson University College of Law — 77.6 percent (67.2 percent)

St. Thomas University College of Law — 71.4 percent (70.2 percent)

Florida Coastal School of Law — 71 percent (62.5 percent)

Nova Southeastern University College of Law — 65.9 percent (42.9 percent)

Florida A&M University College of Law — 61.1 percent (50.6 percent)

Barry University School of Law — 57.8 percent (45.5 percent)

Ave Maria School of Law — 52.6 percent (58.5 percent)

Like many state bar exams, Florida’s is given twice a year, in late February and late July. Passing the bar exam does not guarantee admission to the state Bar, however; applicants also must clear a background check known as a ‘character and fitness’ review.

Applicants also must pass a Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, or MPRE, that tests legal ethics.

Of test takers who went to law school outside Florida, 60.8 percent passed this July and lawyers from other states who also want to be licensed in Florida passed by 74.2 percent.

The Florida Supreme Court ultimately OKs all applicants. “The Court approved 1,487 candidates for admission” on Monday, and Chief Justice Charles Canady “announced that they may be sworn in as members of The Florida Bar,” a press release said.

“Formal induction ceremonies to swear in the new attorneys will be held at the Supreme Court, and the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth District Courts of Appeal on Wednesday,” Oct. 2.

Monday’s press release from the Bar Examiners is here. Statistics for previous exams are here.

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected].


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