Fewer people took the February 2020 Missouri bar exam, more of them were on their second or third try, and fewer students overall were successful. It all adds up to an unusually low pass rate for the February exam sitting.
According to figures released April 15 by the Missouri Board of Law Examiners, just 49.8 percent of takers passed, representing just 112 of the 225 people who took the test.
Lyrissa Lidsky, dean of the University of Missouri School of Law, said she was stunned at the figure and hopes it is a fluke.
“Every single person who fails the bar is devastated,” she said.
The pass rate for the February exam has seen a downward trend in recent years, but a 12.6 percentage-point drop in a single year is highly unusual. In 2019, the overall pass rate was 62.4 percent. That percentage had been in the 70s as recently as 2017, and February pass rates once were typically in the low 80s.
An analysis by Missouri Lawyers Media of February test statistics from 2015 to 2020 shows a number of trends. Part of this year’s drop in the passage rate is because just 64.4 percent of the 118 first-time test-takers passed. That marks the lowest number of and passage rate for first-timers since 2015.
While fewer people took the test overall, a higher proportion of that group were repeat takers, and they failed at even higher rates than first-timers did. Only 39.3 percent of second-time takers, and just 15.9 percent those taking the exam for a third or more times, passed this year. Both percentages are the lowest since 2015.
One fifth of February’s group — 44 people — were on at least their third try. That figure has more than doubled since 2015, when 19 third-time takers comprised just 6 percent of the class.
Meanwhile, there were fewer scores transferred in from other jurisdictions. Those lawyers, whose pass rate are usually 100 percent or close to it, made up 22 percent of those who sat for the February bar in 2015. This year, it was 3 percent.
February test takers typically are law school students who are graduating early or late, graduates who are retaking the test and lawyers who have taken the bar in other states. The session typically has a much lower attendance rate, and generally lower passage rates, than the main exam in July.
Jennifer McGarr, assistant dean for career development at the MU law school, said she’s seen an increasing number of people taking the bar while working at a full-time job — either because they’re already clerking for a law firm, or because they had moved into another career after failing the bar exam and are now trying again.
“If you’re testing against students who have been living, eating, breathing, sleeping bar exam for the last 10 weeks and you’ve been able to do it nights and weekends, there’s just no comparison” she said.
Of the 112 who passed this year’s Missouri test, 81 also have met all admission eligibility requirements, according to the Board of Law Examiners. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, however, the bar-enrollment ceremony that had been set for April 24 has been canceled and will not be rescheduled.
Some states have postponed their scheduled July bar exams during the pandemic, but Missouri has not made such a decision and says all deadlines for applications remain in place. In a March 23 statement, the Board of Law Examiners said contingency plans are being developed in coordination with the National Conference of Bar Examiners and other jurisdictions if it is not possible to administer the July exam as scheduled.
If it is delayed, that also might affect future test-takers who find themselves compelled to take whatever work they can.
“They graduate from law school, and they’re supposed to not work and study for the bar exam through the end of July, and financially that’s a tremendous challenge for law students,” McGarr said. “To have that be pushed back to later in the fall creates an even longer period.”
Adams, Nicholas Ryan; Kansas City, MO
Aguilar, Joshua Daniel Lloyd; Lee’s Summit, MO
Alberro, Andrew E.; St. Louis, MO
Arif, Umme Kulsoom; Wildwood, MO
Barnard, Brice ; Bucyrus, KS
Bayonne, April Loraine; Whittier, CA
Berry, Lauren Noel; Kansas City, MO
Bolton, Mark; Leawood, KS
Brand, George Robert; Prairie Village, KS
Brane, Austin Paul; Kansas City, MO
Brodsky, Anne Elise; St. Louis, MO
Brown, Kendra Jasmin Anastasia; Mansfield, TX
Burge, Brian Wilson; Belleville, IL
Catt, Hannah Lee; Fayetteville, AR
Cook, Lauren ; Belton, MO
Cuezze, Vincent Nicholas; Kansas City, MO
D’Ottavio, Raymond Michael; Fort Lauderdale, FL
DeLeon, Miranda Rhea; St. Louis, MO
Demore, Desirae Fowler; Overland Park, KS
Drake, Teona Sha’Ron Rosalind; Overland, MO
Drouhard, Maria Elizabeth Josephine; Olathe, KS
Ellis, Andrea Nicole; St Louis, MO
Estes, Diane Renee; Springfield, MO
Ethridge, Haley G.; Rogersville, MO
Finocchario, Luke Ethan; Kansas City, MO
Foley, Brock; Kansas City, MO
Freestone, Wilford Isaac; Kansas City, MO
Gaede, Benjamin Matthew; Overland Park, KS
Glanton Jr., Luvell Leigh; St. Louis, MO
Grossman, Sarah Margaret; Columbia, MO
Hall, Brandon Michael; St. Louis, MO
Harvey, Clarissa Che’; Kansas City, KS
Hewitt, Natalie Jo; Jefferson City, MO
Hodges, Alyssa Suzanne; Blue Springs, MO
Hoelting, Wendy Michele; Shawnee, KS
Holmes, Adam Cory; Springfield, MO
Hoover, Traci Erin; Columbus, OH
Jensen, Anna Patricia; Olathe, KS
Johnson, Brad P.; Overland Park, KS
Jones, Tiffany Lynette; St. Louis, MO
Kennedy, Nicolas Aron; Kansas City, MO
Kenney, Rachel Cathleen; Lawrence, KS
Khurana, Amrita; Vincennes, IN
Ko, Dormie Yu Heng; St. Louis, MO
Law, Megan Ellen; St. Louis, MO
Leighton, Elisa Nicole; St. Louis, MO
Mahmood, Tariq; St. Louis, MO
Maize, Marilyn Elaine; Hannibal, MO
Martin, Jasmine A.; St. Louis, MO
McHenry, Alyssa; Greenwood, MO
McNary, Cathryn; Golden City, MO
Medich, Mackenzie Kathryn; Tallahassee, FL
Moeller, Madeline Sommer; St. Louis, MO
Neiman, Gary W.; San Diego, CA
Park, Paisley Sun; St. Louis, MO
Rasch, Sydney Lynn; North Little Rock, AR
Recine, Andrea; Davie, FL
Reniker, Shane Michael; Newark, CA
Robinson, Ricardo Dominique; Kansas City, KS
Rodamaker, Lyndee; St. Louis, MO
Sain, Matthew; Kansas City, MO
Schroeder, Sunny; Hillsboro, KS
Shula, Ashley Michelle; St. Louis, MO
Smith, Kristin J.; St. Charles, MO
Sneesby, Stephanie Ann; Casper, WY
Spalding, Clark ; Granite City, IL
Sposato, Susan P.; Prairie Village, KS
Swain, Patrick James; Kansas City, MO
Thomas, Kendra Lauren; Milwaukee, WI
Thompson, Brooke Moriah; St. Louis, MO
Tisdale, Matthew David; Lenexa, KS
Tweedy, Megan Leigh; Eureka Springs, AR
Walden-Chastain, Robert Lon; Kansas City, MO
Watts, Joshua M.; St. Louis, MO
Wehmer, Sarah Anne; St. Louis, MO
Williams, Jared Nathaniel; Kingsport, TN
Williams-Vann, Aryn Jahnee; Columbia, MO
Wise, Bryan Edward; St. Charles, MO
Yates, Jake Robert; Bonne Terre, MO
Yupangco, Lauren Elizabeth; Rogers, AR
Zinkel, Benjamin Robert; Columbia, MO