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Law students earn state's top passing rate on bar

Nov. 8, 2005

by GENTRA CARTWRIGHT, reporter

Law students know their stuff when it comes to the Texas Bar Exam. With higher passing rates than any other law school in Texas, Baylor law students received a 93.51 percent passing rate for the July bar exam.

In the U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Graduate Schools 2006," Baylor Law School was ranked with the highest bar passing rate of any Texas law school with 94.2 percent. Yale University, which topped the publication's list, ranked not too far ahead with a 94.8 percent bar passing rate. Over the past few years, Baylor law students have created a record of success on the bar exam, offered only twice a year.

Seventy-seven law students from Baylor took the two-day examination, with 72 students passing. In Texas alone, 1,827 students took the exam, and 1,519 students passed, making the state overall pass rate percentage 83.14 percent.

"After taking the bar exam, we will be a long way from being wonderful, outstanding lawyers, but we will definitely be prepared to make an immediate impact in our field," Friendswood third-year law student Gordon Davenport said.

Overall, Baylor Law School is ranked 52nd by U.S. News in its "Top 100 Schools" listing. For its 2006 rankings, the magazine evaluated 179 accredited law schools nationwide, using 12 "measures of quality." The publication also ranked Baylor Law's trial advocacy program No. 6 in the nation in its survey, one spot up from last year.

Priding itself in its success rate, Baylor Law School also takes care in obtaining top-notch professors and faculty.

Baylor is one of the only law schools in the nation to grant tenure based primarily on a professor's teaching effectiveness. Faculty members have an average of 16 years teaching experience and an average of six years experience in the full-time practice of law.

"This is yet again a testament to our longstanding and proven approach to the education of our students for service within a profession," Law School Dean Brad Toben said.

"A team of faculty and staff that consistently goes to the mat for our students and for this school, putting students first; and our stated mission as a school that guides us in getting the job done ­-- not only for our students -- but also for the public and the profession," Toben said.

Besides the professors and faculty, the school's location and amenities attract prospective law students.

Baylor Law School opened the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center in fall 2001. A $33 million landmark, the three-story classically styled structure has 128,000 square feet and is located on the banks of the Brazos River.

"The facilities here are very comfortable and accommodating," said Elisha Nix, a North Augusta, S.C. second year law student.

"Most of my study time is spent by the huge windows or outside enjoying the view of the river and landscape," Nix said.

Baylor Law School considers its admission process to be highly selective. The Fall 2005 acceptance rate was 21 percent out of the 2,437 students that applied.

"We look for motivated, disciplined, personable, well-rounded and diverse individuals," Admissions Director and Scholarship Coordinator Becky Beck said.

The most important factors in the admission process are an applicant's cumulative undergraduate grade point average and LSAT score.

Other factors taken into consideration include the applicant's ability to communicate clearly and concisely.

Since there is no formal interview process, a personal statement written by all applicants is the third factor the admissions committee weighs heavily.

This two-and-a-half-page essay is an introduction of the applicant to the admissions committee and is used by the admission committee as a tool during the application process.

"In the applicant's personal statement, the admissions committee, comprised of four faculty members, is able to see obstacles, disadvantages and positive experiences the applicant has encountered," Beck said.

Baylor Law School is considering applications for spring 2006.

The law school estimates the applicant count to be approximately 2,500.

In the fall, the number of applications for each seat is much larger than in the spring and summer classes.

Because of this, applicants have a better chance for admission into the law school in the spring and summer sessions.

Application deadline into the law school for fall 2006 is March 1, and the application fee is $40.