Mississippi Ends Unlimited Bar Exam Attempts With 4 Strike Rule
The Mississippi Supreme Court has decided that aspiring lawyers can now attempt to pass the bar exam only four times before they are prohibited from trying again. The test is part of the requirement for admission to practice law in the state. Previously, applicants were allowed an unlimited number of attempts.
The justices announced the change to the Rules Governing Admission to the Mississippi Bar. They approved the new rule on November 10th, stating that an “applicant who has unsuccessfully taken the Mississippi Bar Exam at least four (4) times shall not be eligible for re-examination.”
“The Mississippi Board of Bar Admissions requested the change in a petition, citing recent lower bar passage rates both in Mississippi and nationwide, in addition to the fact that large numbers of repeat exam takers ‘adversely and significantly affected pass rates in Mississippi’ as reasons for requesting the Rule change,” the Supreme Court said in the press release.
According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, Mississippi’s overall bar exam pass rate in July 2022 was 71% for all applicants, 75% for first timers and just 33% for repeat takers.
Mississippi Board of Bar Admissions Chair Marcie Baria presented the recommendation to the Supreme Court in a May 6, 2022, letter.
“The escalating number of applicants retaking the exam has adversely affected pass rates in Mississippi, and those retaking the exam repeatedly have not shown any significant statistical likelihood of passing on subsequent attempts,” Baria wrote. “This is particularly true for those who have taken the exam on more than four (4) occasions. Further, continued retaking of the exam could adversely affect the accreditation standing of Mississippi’s law schools.”
University of Mississippi School of Law Dean Susan H. Duncan and Mississippi College School of Law Dean Patricia Bennett wrote in August 2021 asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to limit the number of allowed bar examination attempts to four.
She said that before 2005, people who had taken the bar exam more than three times had to show that they had taken steps to improve their chances. That year, the board removed the need for these kinds of corrective actions, but in 2019, it brought back a version of them.
The “three-strike rule” the high court put in place in 2019 provides that applicants must complete 12 course hours at an accredited law school to take subsequent bar exams after failing three times.
Mississippi Board of Bar Admissions Chair Baria wrote “A hard limitation will eliminate a revolving door of re-takers that only acts as a disservice to all test-takers in Mississippi.”
“In recent years Mississippi has found itself mirroring the nation with smaller law school class size, and lower bar passage rates,” she added. “With all due respect, a majority of the repeat test takers are simply not minimally competent to practice law–regardless of remediation efforts.”
You can read more about this decision here.
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