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William S. Richardson School of Law graduates (Photo by Mike Orbito)

William S. Richardson School of Law graduates (photo by Mike Orbito)

The July 2015 bar exam pass rate for William S. Richardson School of Law graduates leaped 7 percentage points from July 2014, going up to 76 percent passage by first-time takers.

The results also rose for all Richardson graduates who took the bar, going from 66 percent a year ago to 70 percent this year. In both categories Richardson alumni again did better than the overall Hawaiʻi pass rate of 69 percent.

These Hawaiʻi results are bucking a national bar exam trend that has seen passage rates drop over the last few years.

Legal experts suggest that the national downturn may be caused by the inclusion of additional material on the exams. Some critics have begun to question the validity of a single, high-stakes national exam.

Preparing UH law students

Dean Avi Soifer pointed out that the Richardson law school has been doing a great deal in recent years to help students prepare for the exam. Associate Faculty Specialist Liam Skilling, director of the Evening Part-Time and Academic Success Programs, devotes considerable time to supporting students. In addition, he has added additional tutoring sessions for bar exam prep to prepare students for the rigorous test that is given over a period of two days.

“Even one Richardson graduate having to retake the Bar Exam is one too many,” said Skilling. “However, to see our graduates passing at a higher rate, while the passage rate is declining in so many other jurisdictions, is a testament to the quality of our graduates and the commitment by the whole Richardson community to see them succeed.”

“Our curriculum—including the specific subject-area requirements combined with the small intensive writing courses in the first and upper years —along with the amazing support designed by Professor Skilling, prepares our students well for the bar and beyond,” said Professor Daniel Barnett, director of legal writing.

Added Soifer, “It’s gratifying to know that the extra measures we have taken to prepare students, as well as all the support they receive from Liam Skilling and the rest of our faculty and staff, are leading to gratifying results. And we’re pleased to be bucking the national trend of declining passage rates all across the country.”

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