If you want to become a lawyer in Florida, the best place to do so might be Miami-Dade County.
The Florida Board of Bar Examiners released the results Monday for the most recent Bar exam administered in late July among Florida’s law schools. The results show the law schools of Miami-based Florida International University and Coral Gables-based University of Miami outperformed all other Florida law schools in their percentage of people who passed the Bar exam.
Passing the general Bar exam, as well as passing an additional Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, is required to practice law in the state.
FIU, the largest public university in South Florida, led the rankings of Florida’s 11 law schools with a whopping 88.8% passing rate. Out of the 116 FIU graduates who took the exam this summer, 103 passed it.
The exam was administered remotely for all students due to the pandemic on July 27-28. The statewide passing rate was 71.6 percent, which included the rates for the 11 law schools, plus the passing rate for non-Florida law schools (62.5 percent) and the rate for those admitted to the practice of law (78.5 percent).
“I’m just so very proud and impressed by our Bar takers,” said FIU law dean Anthony Page. “They have shown an enormous amount of resilience and persistence and legal skill given all of the travails of the last year.”
The Florida Board of Bar Examiners administers the state Bar exam twice a year, traditionally in person, in February and July.
The July date attracts more test-takers, as it comes after the spring semester, when law schools graduate more students than in the fall. The February date attracts more repeat test-takers, or people who have failed once and need to take the exam again to practice law.
The results released Monday are based on students taking the exam for the first time.
Last year, the Board administered the second exam three months late in October because of the pandemic. That exam and the other two since have been administered remotely because of the novel coronavirus.
Results for the Florida Bar exam, July 2021
Florida International University College of Law
University of Miami School of Law
University of Florida College of Law
Stetson University College of Law
Florida State University College of Law
Ave Maria School of Law
Nova Southeastern University College of Law
Barry University School of Law
Florida A&M University College of Law
Florida Coastal School of Law
St. Thomas University College of Law
Non-Florida law schools
Admitted to the Practice of Law
FIU has aced the Bar exam for years
This marks the seventh consecutive year that FIU has come out on top in the larger fall administration of the exam. Last October, FIU posted an 89.3% passing rate.
In February 2021, 75% of FIU graduates who took the exam passed it.
Page credited FIU’s success to its Academic Excellence Program, which offers students optional courses about cognitive learning science.
For instance, students who take a class called “Introduction to the Study of Law” in their first semester learn about the value of contextualization and quality feedback.
About 85% of all FIU law students tend to take that class, Page said, which helps them develop the habits needed to succeed in law school, the Bar exam and later on in their careers.
“The key is it’s not about memorization or Bar preparation; it’s about teaching students how to teach themselves or how to more effectively learn,” he said. “We’re teaching people how to be better learners, which frankly, will make them better lawyers.”
For third-year students, the program has a class called “U.S. Law and Procedure,” which targets studying for the Bar exam.
After graduating, as they approach their Bar administration date, students can also sign up for the Bar Exam Success Program, which allows them to attend workshops and seek mentors.
Bar passage rates for FIU law students, 2021-2017
UM raised its Bar passage rate
UM, a private institution, came in second in Monday’s results, closely behind FIU. Out of the 246 UM graduates who took the test, 203 passed it, for a Bar passage rate of 82.5.
That’s a 20-point increase compared with the February 2021 passing rate of 62.1% and a 10-point gain compared with the October 2020 passing rate of 72.5%.
Anthony Varona, a UM law professor who was the law school dean until UM President Julio Frenk abruptly fired him in May, had instituted several initiatives to raise the school’s Bar passage rate. Among those: Hiring Steven Maxwell, a popular Bar instructor, from the University of Florida to work with students in preparing for the Bar exam.
UM spokesman Peter Howard couldn’t provide answers to emailed questions from the Herald regarding the improvement and Varona’s involvement.
Instead, Howard emailed a statement attributed to UM’s Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Jeffrey Duerk.
“We are extremely proud of our Miami Law graduates and their recent success in bar examination passage rates, and we are excited about the future of our School of Law and new cohort of first-year law students who joined the University this fall,” it read in part.
“Each year, Miami Law’s Academic Achievement Program provides numerous seminars and workshops to students, including a seminar that focuses specifically on helping students prepare for the bar exam.”
Bar passage rates for UM law students, 2021-2017