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Graduate Bar Passage Rate Climbs to 96%

New academic success director, extensive exam programming lift scores.


Pride is running high at Boston College Law School as the most recent graduates delivered exceptional results on the October 2020 Massachusetts bar exam. BC Law ranked second in Massachusetts for overall passage rate (95.9 percent) and third in the state for first-time test takers with a passage rate of 95.8 percent, a 5.9 percent increase from last year’s first-time test takers.

These results showcase the resilience and perseverance within this class of students who managed to excel in the face of adversity as the entire world battles with the catastrophic Covid-19 pandemic.

“Although these results are important to the school for our ABA accreditation and overall reputation, they matter most to our recent graduates as they enter the profession,” Dean Vincent Rougeau said in an email to the community. “We are so proud of their hard work and perseverance in these unprecedented conditions.”

These results are evidence of both a tremendous effort put forth by the graduates, as well as a coordinated and extensive process to build more effective bar exam programming, designed and delivered by the BC Law faculty and staff. BC Law’s Faculty Task Force and its Academic and Bar Success Committee did extensive data collection and research and proposed a comprehensive overhaul of the Law School’s approach to educating students about the bar exam.

Over the last decade, the bar exam has changed dramatically. Most states that previously offered a patchwork of individual state-based exams now offer the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), with three multistate components–a multiple choice section, an essay section, and a performance practice section. This shift to a national exam allows law schools to focus on preparing students for the UBE, and ensuring that graduates have the skills to succeed on both the bar and in practice. At BC Law, preparation for the bar exam is now a three-year journey that begins with pre-law orientation and continues through the summer after law school when most recent graduates sit for the exam. Such relentless preparation has proven to be highly effective.

“All of our students are capable of passing the bar,” said Founders Professor Mary Bilder, chair of the Bar Success Committee. “We wanted to institutionalize this message and provide meaningful support. Our data reflected that we needed to ensure that students came into law school with a foundation that set them up for success, and that we needed to offer additional analytical and writing courses for students who would benefit from further practice. None of us took the bar that our students are taking and we had to rethink our approach. The number of students who passed in this particularly difficult year is a great sign that we have made important steps forward.”

Another key recommendation was to create an administrative position to oversee the ongoing effort to improve the academic and bar support for students throughout all three years. Last year, the School hired Nina Farber as Director of Academic Success programs. “We could not have achieved such strong results without Nina’s tireless efforts,” said Professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Renee Jones, who has also played a key role in these initiatives. “Nina worked throughout the spring, summer, and fall to help our students cope as the landscape for bar administration evolved due to the pandemic, and kept recent graduates updated on changes in the bar across the country. She oversaw our summer bar mentoring program, and counseled graduates on when and where to take the bar, and bar preparation strategies.” Stress and anxiety are factors in bar exam success and the program includes an expanded number of mindfulness and mental health strategies.

In addition to hiring a Director of Academic Success Programs, BC Law also introduced a suite of programming to support students’ academic achievement. These innovations include: The Zero L Pre-Law Orientation Program, the Lawyering Fundamentals Pre-Law Orientation Program, the Legal Analysis for Practice 2L Course, and the Strategies for Effective Legal Analysis 3L course.