The Vermont Supreme Court has officially posted their results, and it isn’t good.
Of the 40 people who took the exam, only 19 passed it.
That’s less than half! (47.5% to be exact)
This is a sharp different from 2013 and 2014, and it offers further proof that there is a significant downward trend in numbers.
Over the last 2 years, here are the February and July passage rates:
- February 2013 – 83%
- July 2013 – 72%
- February 2014 – 68%
- July 2014 – 66%
- February 2015 – 47.5%
That is a stunning drop of 21% from 2014 and 36% from 2013. And if the spread remains the same for July, it will be even less than 47% (each year since 2013, July has been lower than February).
And the other states statistics are looking bad as well. Of all the states reporting right now, only Louisiana shows a hike in numbers. Everyone else has fallen, and some like Ohio and Vermont have fallen pretty far.
It’s hard to imagine how such a serious fall could be purely student related. I find it hard to believe that there isn’t something else going on behind the scenes. The evidence suggests the test is getting harder, and that’s not good.
It begs the question of what responsibilities the Bar Examiners owe to the students. What duty do they have to share important information (such as a stricter exam) with students and how early?
Bar Examiners aren’t acknowledging it, but the fact is, many students use bar passage rates as a significant factor when choosing law schools and future homes. For example, California is notoriously difficult, so unless you really, really love California, we tend to avoid it. And as for choosing law schools, it’s like any other college decision – you generally find that the better schools have the better passage rates in their state.
So the problem is three fold.
- We use the passage rates to influence which state we choose.
- We use which state we choose to influence which college we choose.
- We use the passage rates to influence which school we choose.
Altogether, it feels a little like we were lied to when things like the current fall happen. They give out these statistics, and they stay pretty stable year in and year out, so you start to rely on it. You make important, hundred of thousands of dollars decisions based on those statistics. You plan your life based in no small part on the belief that you have a chance, because you’ve seen the statistics.
And then the fall comes. People start failing in unexpected numbers, and it starts looking more and more like the schools and examiners have screwed you over with the statistics.
How soon should they have to tell you that the exam is about to get harder?
1 year? – before you pay for the bar?
2 years? – before you start studying and when you are making plans for which state you choose?
3 years? – Before you choose the law school, before you’ve made life-changing decisions?
Personally, I’m going to say 3 years. We should be given a three-year heads up before the examiners make any decisions about making the exam harder. We rely on the past statistics, and it’s completely reasonable that we do so. We make huge life- and monetary- decision based on those statistics; it’s a really big thing. You can’t just change things without given us ample warning and time to work around those changes.