SB and Ventura Colleges of Law posts 22% first-time pass rate
Ten graduates from the Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law passed
the historically difficult February 2020 California Bar Exam to become licensed attorneys.
The February bar exam was one of the toughest in state history. Only 26.8% of 4,205 applicants passed, the second-lowest pass rate since the February 1982 exam, according to law industry news website Above The Law.
The Colleges of Law have campuses at 20 E. Victoria St. in Santa Barbara and 4475 Market St. in Ventura.
According to statistics provided by school president Dr. Matthew Nehmer, eight of the ten graduates who passed from the two campuses were first-time bar takers.
Dr. Nehmer said the February bar pass rate was 17% for first-time takers at the Santa Barbara campus and 31% for first-timers at the Ventura campus.
“The school’s collective first-time pass rate of 22% outpaced the California Accredited Law Schools average of 17%. The (American Bar Association) schools posted a 42% first-time average, also a decline from 2019,” Dr. Nehmer said in a report on the school’s bar exam results.
The school’s overall pass rate, including first-time and repeat takers across the two campuses, was 17%.
In the February 2019 bar exam, the Colleges of Law boasted a 42% first-time pass rate across the two campuses, just 3% off the ABA first-time pass rate.
The Colleges of Law posted a 31% repeat taker pass rate on the July 2019 bar exam, more than double the California Accredited Law Schools average.
Colleges of Law Dean Jackie Gardina said the school offers a bar diagnostic exam during the third year of the law program. The results suggest subject areas the students can focus on during their bar studies.
Ms. Gardina said school staff are analyzing the past three years of diagnostic results to determine if it is a good predictor of success on the bar exam and find areas where students are struggling.
“We’re doing a deep dive to see if there’s any common trends in that data that suggest ‘wow even by the third year a lot of our students are struggling with reading comprehension or application (of the law) or analysis,’” Ms. Gardina said.
She said the data will help her determine how to adjust the program curriculum to improve those areas.
Ms. Gardina said the school staff are researching student “success factors” to identify what qualities in students who pass the bar can be developed in other students.
“Who was successful? What do they look like and can we duplicate that? What’s unique about them that we might be able to do, both cognitive and noncognitive factors?” Ms. Gardina said.
The school offers a bar studies class on bar study strategies as part of its core curriculum and an elective class on the multistate performance test section of the bar exam.
Ms. Gardina added that the school is also expanding its services for repeat takers by opening up student bar exam workshops and offering a simulated exam.
Ms. Gardina said the school is in contact with approximately 30 to 40 potential repeat takers.
“I have to be sensitive to people’s life circumstances that may make it difficult for them to continue to persist whether it’s a family situation or whatever the case may be,” Ms. Gardina said. She continued that the school is working to connect repeat takers with alumni who passed the bar exam on the second, third or even fourth time and can provide motivation, encouragement and advice.
“I think the people who can speak best to that are the people who persisted. Not everyone has the ability to persist but having them hear from and speak to those who persisted and what they did in order to finally climb that mountain is perhaps more effective than anything I can say,” Ms. Gardina said.