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Baylor tops Texas law schools in bar exam pass rate

Nov. 9, 2010

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Makenzie Mason | Lariat Photographer
Des Moines, Iowa, first-year law school student Bri Turner studies Monday in the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center.

By Meghan Hendrickson
Staff Writer

Baylor School of Law was listed as having the highest passing rate out of the nine law schools in Texas on the Texas State Bar Exam after the scores were released for the exam that was administered in July.

This is the 14th time since 2001 that the law school has come out on top in regard to its students' pass rate on the bar, which was 94.64 percent this year. The exam is administered twice a year.

"Obviously it's more than mere coincidence," Jim Wren, professor of law, said. "I think it is reflective of a very excellent group of students that work and get worked very hard. It is a hard-working group and the results show up in the objective data."

Brad Toben, dean of the Baylor School of Law, attributed the school's success to several factors.

"We matriculate in bringing to the law school very bright and highly capable students who are among the best students across the nation," Toben said. "We have a very significant focus on teaching and mentoring our students. We are a very small law school with an environment that encourages and fosters forming meaningful mentoring relationships between the faculty and the students."

Toben has been at Baylor since 1983 and has been the dean of the law school since 1991. He said that in order to practice law, students must pass two exams: the Texas State Bar Exam and the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam, an exam on professional ethics.

Law school students typically take the bar exam after completing the three-year law school program and studying for, as Toben said, "a whole bunch of hours."

The eight other law schools that Baylor ranks above now include: Texas Tech University, Texas Wesleyan University, the University of Texas, Southern Methodist University, St. Mary's University in San Antonio, South Texas College of Law in Houston, the University of Houston and Texas Southern University School of Law.

Toben said the students who haven't taken the exam are always very encouraged by these results.

"They will go into the bar exam with confidence that they have learned and mastered what is necessary to pass the bar exam," Toben said.

"And I also believe it gives them a sense that there will be a very successful ending to their academic endeavors."

A first-year law student from Des Moines, Iowa, Bri Turner is an example of Toben's view that current students will be encouraged by the results.

"It's very comforting because you can't practice law in Texas without passing the bar, and so it's good to know that all of the hard work will pay off because most Baylor law students pass the bar," Turner said.

Turner came to study law at Baylor because of its emphasis on child advocacy.

"Primarily I decided to study law because I really enjoyed reading and writing and I knew this was a way to give back to the community in a manner that would be engaging, and I felt this was a career that would be able to sharpen my skills as I grow older and challenge me intellectually," Turner said.

Toben said the faculty is very proud of the pass rate Baylor law students achieved.

"Nothing makes the faculty happier than to see our students succeed in all they do," Toben said.

Wren said the faculty works the students hard because they're going to have people whose lives, in multiple ways, depend on them.

"We're preparing people now because clients are going to be depending on them," Wren said. "It's a sacred trust."