This past week, the California State Bar released the most recent bar exam results for theFebruary 2016 General Bar Exam. For first time General Bar Exam takers, the results for distance learning law schools averaged 44%. The first time passing rate for distance learning law schools is comparable to Out-of-State ABA law schools, with 45%, and close to California ABA law schools, with 48%.
What is also interesting about these latest set of results is that California’s 44% first time bar pass for distance learning law schools doubled that of California’s accredited law schools without ABA approval, at 22%. The distance learning law schools’ 44% first time bar passage rate more than doubled the rate of California unaccredited correspondence law schools (at 23%) and unaccredited fixed facility law schools (13%). The California State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners is currently considering a proposal that would allow accreditation of distance learning law schools. The ABA currently permits students to take a limited number of courses via distance learning.
Interpreting the results further will be possible when the full details are released by the California State Bar, in six to eight weeks. In the interim, St. Francis School of Law Dean Carole J. Bucknersees the results as further proof of the distance learning concept. “Having taught at an ABA law school, and in a distance learning school, I am not surprised that the most recent distance learning results are close to the results of many ABA schools,” Dean Buckner said. “The quality of the St. Francis distance learning core curriculum is comparable to an ABA law school. And the live interaction is superior to that of an ABA law school, given our small classes, and our experienced faculty, as well as our weekly assignments, with feedback from professors. Our students are also able to focus on practical professional skills, given the expertise of our faculty of practitioners and our program design.”
It is also important for prospective students considering legal education to be informed about the differences between unaccredited fixed facility law schools and distance learning law schools. “The myth is that being in a live classroom is somehow superior,” Dean Buckner said. “These most recent results show that is not necessarily the case for the most recent first time California General Bar exam takers,” she added, noting the 13% passage rate in the most recent exams for unaccredited fixed facility law schools.
Students considering a correspondence model of legal education should also note the distinction in the most recent results, with correspondence schools at 23% first time bar passage and distance learning at 44%. Currently the California State Bar requires 135 hours of live interactive class in the distance learning law school programs, which may be a factor in the latest results. More detailed analysis awaits the release of more detailed results.
St. Francis recently graduated its first class of students, who plan to sit for the California General Bar Exam in July, 2016.