Reforms at the University of Toledo's law school are starting to pay off, according to its dean, as the school's graduates posted the best passing rate in years on Ohio's bar exam.
UT's overall passing rate of 77 percent on the July exam placed it fifth among the state's nine law schools, a jump of 24 percentage points over February's exam when the school placed seventh.
The passing rate among all applicants was 76 percent, and 83 percent for first-time exam takers.
“We're pleased with the improvement, but we know we still have some work to do,” said Philip Closius, law school dean. “You are clearly starting to see some results now” of the downsizing and curricular changes at the law school.
The dean said he was most pleased by the performance of UT graduates who took the test for the first time. They had a passing rate of 85 percent, tied for third best in the state and an improvement over the 58 percent passing rate on February's exam that ranked it seventh.
Marcia Mengel, clerk of the Ohio Supreme Court, which released bar exam results yesterday, said officials often key in on that figure because repeat test takers can skew overall passing rates.
The University of Cincinnati topped the list with a 90 percent overall passing rate on the July exam. Ohio State University finished second, followed by Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and the University of Akron.
With 58 percent of its applicants passing the bar, Ohio Northern University ranked ninth in the state.
About two years ago, UT implemented a strategic plan to reduce the size of its law school and increase its selectivity. It has shrunk from 525 students to 454, and the median score on the LSAT - the standardized test required of applicants - has risen from 152 for the class of full-time students entering in 1999 to 154.
Christy Cole, who graduated from the UT law school in May, said its reforms were instrumental in helping her. She learned yesterday that she passed the July exam on her first try.
“My second year, I saw tremendous changes with the way they approached exams,” she said. “I think everything has been much more thorough.”
Of course, studying hard for the bar exam helps. “I really just put in 12 to 13 hours a day [studying] for eight weeks,” Ms. Cole said.
Next year's graduates will be the first class to benefit from three full years of UT's changes, Mr. Closius said.
“I think at this point we've really gotten everything that we need to get done in place. It's just a matter of maintaining and hopefully seeing more effects,” he said.