Bar exam passing rates per school
July 2012 bar passage rates, in percentages
University of Florida College of Law - 91.2
Florida State University College of Law - 89.2
Stetson University College of Law - 88.9
Barry University School of Law - 81.7
University of Miami School of Law - 81.6
Nova Southeastern University College of Law - 80.6
Florida International University College of Law - 80.3
Ave Maria School of Law - 75.3
Florida Coastal School of Law - 75.2
St. Thomas University College of Law - 71.4
Florida A&M University College of Law - 68.1
non-Florida law schools - 75.4
The number of Ave Maria School of Law students who passed the state bar exam increased by more than 25 percent this year to 75.3 percent, moving the school up from its former last place ranking among Florida schools.
Less than half the 23 Ave Maria students who took the exam in July 2011 passed, compared to the average 80.1 percent passage rate at the other 10 Florida schools and other non-Florida schools. Of the 81 Ave Maria students who took it this July, 61 (75.3 percent) passed, according to results released Monday by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.
"It reinforces what we all knew," Ave Maria School of Law President and Dean Eugene Milhizer said of the rate. "And that is that we have an outstanding program of legal education."
This year's passage rate puts the Southwest Florida school at No. 8 on the list of 11 state schools — closer to the state average of 80.3 and on par with the non-Florida average of 75.4.
Bar results are one way the public judges a school, he said, so the improvement could help raise Ave Maria's profile.
Milhizer cited the school's 2008 move from Michigan to Florida as partly responsible for last year's low rate. Many students who graduated last year spent time at the Michigan school before moving with it to Naples.
Before the move, the school achieved a 100 percent passage rate during at least one testing.
Another factor in last July's results, Milhizer said, was the small sample size.
To improve the passage rate, administrators introduced new, bar-specific courses, established an advanced critical thinking department to support students and brought in guest lecturers. Administrators plan to build on those efforts to continue improving the score, he said.
"It's strong feedback to see that the types of things that we implemented and the approach we took to improve our bar results are in the right direction," Milhizer said.
But ultimately, he said, the students are ultimately responsible for the improved scores.
"I want to congratulate our graduates for their hard work, because ultimately, somebody's success on the bar exam is related to the amount of preparation and work that they put in," he said.