Stetson Leads in Florida Bar Exam Pass Rates, Others Trail Behind

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: September 27, 2013 3:55 AM
Stetson Law School

Stetson Law School

Over 3,000 lawyer hopefuls gathered at the Tampa Convention Center at the end of July for a two-day exam that would measure all they had learned in law school. On Monday, after nearly two months of waiting, the results to see who passed the Florida bar exam were in.

Eleven schools participated in the exam, which covers a wide variety of law-related material. Many studying for the exam devote months of their time on top of three years of law school to prepare for the test.

Among all first-time test-takers in Florida, 77.2 percent of candidates passed the July bar exam, a 3 point drop from last year’s pass rate.

Some Florida law schools fared better with passage rates than others. The Florida school with the highest bar passage rate was Gulfport-based Stetson University College of Law, which had an 89.3 percent pass rate -- a percentage over 12 points higher than the statewide average.

Over the last decade, Stetson’s bar passage rate has climbed steadily, in part due to the law school’s bar preparation program which includes bar preparation workshops, an essay-grading program and a study plan to help graduates track their progress while studying for the exam.

“Stetson graduates are prepared for the legal profession, and their performance on the July bar is further testimony to their ability to perform with professionalism under pressure,” said Stetson Law Dean Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz.

The top-ranked law school in Florida, University of Florida, trailed not too far behind Stetson’s pass rate -- 88.2 percent of UF grades taking the Florida bar exam passed. UF also had a higher number of graduates -- almost 100 more -- who took the test than Stetson did.

Florida State University and Florida International University also boasted higher-than-average passage rates, with 86.7 percent and 82.8 percent, respectively.

“We prefer to be No. 1, but No. 2 or No. 3 in a pack of 11 is acceptable,” Don Weidner, dean of FSU’s College of Law told the Tallahassee Democrat. “We always hope to do better.”

But other schools didn’t fare as well as Stetson and others on the bar exam. Naples-based Ave Maria School of Law had only a 57 percent pass rate -- well below the statewide average of 77 percent.

Florida Coastal School of Law didn’t do too hot, either -- 67 percent of its bar takers passed the July exam.

Florida A&M University College of Law also performed below the statewide average, though only by a few points at 71.7 percent. This year’s pass rate is actually high for FAMU, who had only 52.6 percent of its students passing the July bar as recently as 2009, when the state average was 80 percent. 2013 marked the first year FAMU had crossed the 70 percent pass rate.

The American Bar Association requires a university’s students to be within 15 percentage points of the state average for bar passage accreditation purposes.

The next bar exam is scheduled for February 2014.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at or follow her on Twitter @AllisonNielsen.

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