The July 2013 Louisiana Bar Examination results are set to be announced on October 11, 2013. Until then, applicants have but a few remaining hours to ponder whether the recent changes to the bar examination will have the same negative effect on passage rates as they did last year.
On October 19, 2011, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered the implementation of the first changes to the grading standards of the Louisiana Bar exam since the exam was instituted. These changes: began “compensatory scoring;” eliminated essay portions of the test; included “multiple choice” format portions; doubled the score value of the “Code subjects;” ended the “conditional failure” status; and, placed a five-time limit on unsuccessful attempts to pass. Under the new rules, an applicant must score a 650 or higher or will be required to retake the nine (9) section, week-long test encompassing over twenty one (21) hours of testing.
These changes did not go unopposed. The LSU Paul Hebert Law Center submitted a position paper to the Louisiana Supreme Court arguing against compensatory scoring. In support of its position, LSU cited the analysis of the Louisiana Supreme Court Committee on Bar Admissions which indicated that a sizable number of applicants could pass the bar under compensatory scoring, even though they failed two or more of the Code subjects.
Prior to implementation of the new rules, many feared that the changes would cause an artificial increase in the number of applicants who passed the bar. However, the exact opposite has occurred. The first examination under the new method was administered during July, 2012. The overall applicant passage rate was 61.32%, an 11.08% drop in the passage rate. The February 2013 examination demonstrated a similar decline. The February 2013 examination passage rate was 40.65%, a 12.95% drop from February 2012.
At this time, it is unknown whether the decline in the overall passage rate will become the “new norm.” It has been suggested that passage rates will return to historical levels over time. Until then, applicants will continue to ponder, and the attorneys at Keogh Cox will continue to wish them luck.