SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court will decide whether to lower the passing score on California’s licensing exam for attorneys after the number of people who passed the test in the state dropped by a third in recent years.
California had the lowest pass rate in the country by far last year, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
The state, however, also had among the highest passing score requirements in the country, and some law school deans say that unfairly penalized students who would have become lawyers in other states.
The passage rate on California’s July bar exam fell from nearly 62 percent in 2008 to 43 percent in 2016, mirroring a national trend.
The State Bar’s Board of Trustees voted Wednesday in favor of three options for changing the passing score.
The high court has the final say, though it’s not clear when the judges will issue a decision.
One recommendation would reduce the minimum score on an interim basis from 144 to a little over 141. A second calls for a lower passing score of 139. A third would leave the score as is.
Modeling forecasts suggest the 141 score would have boosted California’s July 2016 pass rate by 8 percent, state bar officials said.
Some experts have blamed the falling scores on a dip in law school applications that has forced institutions to accept applicants who have not done as well academically.