At the only public law school in Oregon, students here have a wide variety of legal interests, and the expertise of the faculty who support these diverse pursuits are equally disperse. However, those very different areas of concentration all come together when it comes to applying to the bar.
The primary way to gain admission to the Oregon State Bar is by taking and passing the bar exam. Since 2017, Oregon has administered the Uniform Bar Exam, the same exam given in 34 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is a two-day exam that requires bar applicants to memorize an incredible amount of law and to use that law to analyze facts and predict outcomes. While undergraduates might think of graduation as the culmination of what they have learned in school, for law students, it is simply the last day off before studying for the bar.
According to Prof. Megan McAlpin, director of the Academic Excellence Program, most graduates spend about 500 to 600 hours studying – or nearly 10 hours per day, 6 days a week – for 9 weeks before the exam.
This year, all that work paid off for Oregon Law graduates. More than 80 members of the class of 2018 applied for admission to the Oregon State Bar, and 83.3 percent of them gained admission. That is a higher pass rate than any other school in Oregon. And in Washington, 100% of Oregon Law’s 2018 graduates passed on their first try.
What is it that gives Oregon Law graduates an edge in passing the bar? As Assistant Dean Nicole Commissiong puts it: investment. It is an investment in the success of Oregon Law graduates and a commitment to making bar passage a priority.
That investment has resulted in staffing and supports focused on bar exam preparation, including the creation of the Academic Excellence Program, a partnership with BARBRI Bar Review that gives qualifying graduates access to a bar preparation course, and ongoing encouragement by a core group of law school employees throughout bar review. This trifecta of support helps students better understand the volume and quality of work required to pass the bar exam, which helps them feel more prepared to tackle the workload.
To say Oregon Law’s recent bar passage rates reflect the law school’s efforts is only exposition. The real story of the state’s leading bar passage rates both this year and last reflect the hard work, focus, and applied excellence of Oregon Law graduates.