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Key Lawmakers Want State Bar to Re-Evaluate the California Bar Exam -- Again

After another awful California bar exam, things could get worse -- again.

Test-takers in July turned in the lowest scores in 67 years, the pass rate falling for the fifth year in a row below the half-way mark. The overall pass rate was 40.7 percent, down almost 9 percent from last year.

Now lawmakers are calling for another evaluation of the bar exam, but we saw this movie already. It didn't end well.

Nightmare Exam

For most, the California bar exam is a nightmare. Many consider it the toughest in the country, largely because of the high cut score of 144.

The cut score has been so high -- and the pass rate so low -- that law school deans and lawmakers pleaded with the state supreme court to lower the score last year. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye declined.

Mark Stone, chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, wants the justices to "take a fresh look" at the issue. Although the pass rate is the only thing that has changed, Stone says that's the problem.

"The longer the downward trend continues, the more likely it will be that highly qualified applicants to law school are deterred from pursuing a career in the law and will opt for other career paths," Stone said.

Negative Effects

Writing to the TaxProf Blog, Stone said the trend will "negatively affect diversity" in the legal profession and the bench. Ultimately, he said, that will hurt public access to justice.

Of course, the state supreme court has heard it all before. Last time, the state bar also surveyed lawyers for their opinion: 80 percent said not to lower the bar.

The real problem, many say, is not the test. It's the law schools that are turning out students who are not prepared for it.

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