After a frightful February showing on South Carolina’s first administration of the Uniform Bar Exam, most University of South Carolina graduates who sat for July’s edition received a little good news heading into the month of Thanksgiving.
USC had been in a statistical slump of sorts, seeing its percentage of bar passers trickle southward over the last couple of years. In February, less than 48 percent (23 of 48) of its test-takers managed to meet the cut score of 266 points required to pass the UBE in South Carolina.
But on July’s exam, 125 of 164 USC graduates met that threshold, and the pass rate of 76.22 percent brings the school back toward the numbers it usually enjoys after July’s bar. USC’s dean, Robert Wilcox, pointed out that it’s an “inexact science” to compare UBE results to those of previous traditional state bar exams.
“We do know, however, that University of South Carolina graduates took seriously their preparation for this exam, and we are pleased that they continue to pass at a rate well above the average pass rate for the state,” Wilcox said.
A perfect score on the UBE, a standardized bar exam that yields a portable score attorneys can use to apply for bar admission in other states, is 400. Passing scores in UBE jurisdictions range from 260-280. Lawyers Weekly reported after February’s bar exam that the range was 260-284, with Oregon having the highest exam standards for bar admission. Oregon has since reduced its cut score to 274.
South Carolina is one of nine jurisdictions in which a 266 is considered passing.
The Charleston School of Law’s pass rate of 43.53 percent (37 of 85) is down from just over 50 percent last July, but on par with its February showing of 42.25 percent. After February’s exam, Charleston’s dean, Andy Abrams, said that the school implemented major changes to prepare students for South Carolina’s new version of the bar exam. Unfortunately, he said, there just hasn’t been enough time for the “substantive changes and initiatives” to bear bar exam fruit.
“We are confident, however, that with these new programs, resources, and personnel now in place, we will begin to see significant improvement of our students’ performance on future exams,” Abrams said.
Once again, graduates of out-of-state law schools fared well, with 118 of 161 examinees (73.29 percent) scoring 266 or higher. Statistics provided by the Office of Bar Admissions of the Supreme Court of South Carolina do not further categorize these examinees according to schools or states.
July’s overall pass rate of 68.29 percent (280 of 410) was up from February’s mark of 60.66 percent, and is in keeping with typical July numbers.
The swearing-in ceremony for applicants who completed all requirements, including the Course of Study on South Carolina Law, for admission to the South Carolina State Bar will be held Nov. 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Koger Center in Columbia.
Follow Heath Hamacher on Twitter @SCLWHamacher