Law Students' Bar Exam Struggle Called Typical for a New School

Article excerpt

The first real test of what's being taught at the Florida Coastal School of Law produced mixed results.

While the fledgling Jacksonville law school had the lowest Bar exam passing rate in the state in February, its numbers are comparable to other new law schools.

The recently released Bar exam passing rates for Florida's seven law schools show the University of Florida with the highest passing rate and Florida Coastal with the lowest, with fewer than half the students passing.

But in comparison, Florida Coastal's scores are comparable to other new law schools.

New law schools that don't yet have a reputation struggle to get applicants into their educational institutions and don't have the competitive edge as the more established schools, said Kathryn Ressel, executive director of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.

Richard Hurt, deputy consultant on legal education with the American Bar Association, said new law schools that recruited a class prior to getting provisional accreditation have a harder-than-average job getting good students.

"Something that they have to take into consideration in recruiting those classes is looking to the Bar exams," he said.

Florida Coastal, which opened in 1996, received provisional accreditation from the ABA last year, making February only the second time its students could take the Bar.

With only four Florida Coastal students taking the exam in July in which three of them passed, the February results showed a clearer picture of how students at the Jacksonville school are doing.

Of the 148 Florida Coastal students who took the test in February, 65 passed, creating a 43.9 percent passing rate.

In comparison, the University of Florida had 129 students who took the test in February, with 104 of them passing, an 80.6 percent passing rate.

But Florida Coastal students compared well with students at other new law schools.

Of the four law schools that are under provisional accreditation by the ABA, two California schools -- Chapman University and Western State University -- had Bar exam results from July tests that were lower than the scores of Florida Coastal students in July or February. California's February Bar exam results haven't been released. …