Alexander Luzula | Staff Writer
FIU’s College of Law ranked first in the Florida bar exam passage rate for the eighth year in a row.
In a report released by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, FIU ranked first among Florida’s 11 public law programs, with a passage rate of 81.2% compared to the state average of 64.4%.
This is despite the bar passage rate dropping both at FIU and statewide – FIU’s 2021 score was 88.8 compared to the state’s 71.6%.
Antony Page, Dean of the College of Law, attributes the decreased passage rate to interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced students into remote learning classes and deprived many from creating a support system.
“With COVID coming in March of 2020 and there being a significant amount of remote instruction, students just weren’t able to learn as much,” said Page. “I’m not sure that the data would fully bear that out, as some law schools went remote for a very long time, and other law schools for a very short time, and yet it seemed like everybody’s passage rate dropped.”
Instead, Page attributes the high scores to the law program’s rigorous curriculum that focuses on legal writing, as well as the Academic Excellence Program.
Law professor Scott Norberg also cited the pandemic as influencing the decreased passage rates, but highlighted the Academic Excellence Program as a contributing factor for FIU’s overall achievement.
“At any school, there are going to be some folks who need a little bit of extra support to do well in law school, to graduate, and then pass the bar exam,” said Norberg.
“I think we are as good as it gets when it comes to identifying the students that need the extra attention and providing them the support they need.”
Law professor Jose Gabilondo also cited the Academic Excellence Program as a factor for law students’ success when preparing for the exam.
“Historically, law professors did not always explain the principles that they were trying to teach,” said Gabilondo. “In class, the teacher would present a complex issue, but the students were on their own.”
“It cultivates independence and the analytical ability you need as a lawyer, but the drawback is a lot of basic skills are not explained fully,” he said.
“What we’ve done is figure out, ‘how do you teach in such a way that you reach the entire class, including those who have a different way of learning?’”.
Page indicates that the high bar exam rate is a reflection of the Law School’s overall successes and increasing standards for the program, which includes a more rigorous standard for admittance and raising the quality of accepted students.