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law school graduates in cap and gowns crossing street

The July 2017 bar exam pass rate jumped 8 percentage points from last year for graduates of the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, rising to a 76 percent passage rate for first-time test takers. Last year the rate was 68 percent.

The results also improved for all William S. Richardson School of Law graduates who took the exam, going up 10 percentage points to 74 percent, compared to 64 percent a year ago.

In both categories, the law school’s alumni did markedly better than the state’s overall pass rate of 72 percent.

Over the past several years, bar passage rates have declined across the United States. As state-by-state bar passage rates for 2017 have begun to be reported, the William S. Richardson School of Law may be part of a national upturn. So far, a majority of states releasing their results have shown an increase in passage rates.

In the past, legal experts suggested that the national downturn may have been caused by the inclusion of additional material on the exam, and some critics had begun to question the validity of a single, high-stakes national exam.

Acting Dean Melody K. MacKenzie said that the law school has substantially boosted its efforts to help students prepare for the bar exam, and she was gratified that the extra measures resulted in such good results.

“We have wonderful graduates who contribute much to the diversity and quality of the legal profession. To put them in the best possible position to pass the bar, we offer a broad range of support,” said MacKenzie. “Our entire faculty and staff are devoted to making every student and graduate successful.”

MacKenzie noted that the work of Associate Faculty Specialist Liam Skilling, director of the Evening Part Time and Academic Success programs, includes extra direct support for students to help them prepare for the bar exam. Skilling continues to provide additional tutoring sessions to help students get ready for the rigorous two-day test.

“It is hard to explain just how grueling it is to prepare for the bar exam,” Skilling said. “Congratulations to all those who passed. And now we get back to work, because the Richardson community is committed to the success of every single graduate.”

—By Beverly Creamer

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