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Law Students Are Struggling To Pass The NC Bar Exam

A picture of a gavel on a document.
Brian Turner
Flickr Creative Commons

The percentage of law students passing the North Carolina bar exam has dropped over the past five years. The state Board of Law Examiners reports 62 percent passed in July 2014.

Catharine Arrowood of the North Carolina Bar Association says the problem starts before law school.

"It appears that the first year law students that are going into the law schools are not as well prepared for either analytical thinking or excellent writing as people were 10 years ago."

Arrowood says economic downturn might play a role.

"During the Recession, an awful lot of folks decided to go to law school who could not find other jobs. And in some instances, these are folks who are not as passionate about the law as they might be."

North Carolina Board of Law Examiners Chairman Randy Phillips says bar exam scores are down nationally. He says it's a complicated issue.

"I think, given the pressures on law schools, declining opportunity in the profession, fewer people interested in going to law school, it would not surprise me if some law schools, at least, felt pressure to admit people they wouldn't have admitted a few years back."

Phillips says he supports the state Bar Association's plan to review bar exam preparation measures. He also says it might be beneficial to consider alternative preparation for the bar exam.

The North Carolina Bar Association will host a conference next month to evaluate legal education and service in the state.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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