Each fall, West Virginia University College of Law graduates take the oath to become members of the West Virginia bar.
In the presence of family, friends, and new colleagues, 53 recent WVU Law graduates and others were sworn in October 10 to the state bar at the WV Supreme Court of Appeals and the federal bar for the Southern District of West Virginia.
“The swearing in ceremony is the final step in the long journey to becoming a lawyer,” explained Gregory Bowman, dean of the WVU College of Law. “It’s a momentous occasion in the life of a new lawyer, and it’s an honor to celebrate those who have worked so hard to be admitted to the practice of law.”
Individuals are admitted to the bar after earning a J.D. degree and passing the bar exam or by reciprocity. The bar exam application and testing process includes confirmation that an individual has knowledge of professional conduct and ethics, can apply fundamental lawyering skills and legal principles, and can prove good character and fitness.
“I also want to acknowledge our recent graduates who were not in attendance at the swearing in ceremony,” said Bowman. “Not all students pass the bar on their first attempt, but I know the caliber of our students and the quality of their education, and we are proud of them all.”
Nation-wide, bar pass rates have continued a downward trend, and one component of the bar exam, the Multistate Bar Exam multiple choice section, hit a 34-year low in 2018. The National Conference of Bar Examiners’ President Judith Gundersen explains that the national MBE scores are “what would be expected” given the decrease in national law school admissions test scores.
WVU Law and many schools are currently exploring other potential causes for the decline, including changes to the examination itself, economic hurdles, and an increased prevalence of mental health issues among law students. Meanwhile, WVU Law continues to innovate in its bar preparation programming, which includes for-credit classes, individual counseling and advice, and bar preparation scholarships. WVU also continues to maintain job placement rates well above the national average. The WVU Law employment rate as measured 10 months after graduation for the Class of 2017 is 82 percent for jobs requiring bar passage or J.D. advantage, while the national average is 75 percent.
“As we investigate the lower passage rates, we have to look at the greater context,” said Bowman. “Regardless, WVU Law will continue to support its graduates and prepare students to pass the bar and pursue fulfilling careers.”