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Duquesne’s Exemplary First-Time Pass Rate

First-Time Pass Rate Places Law School Among Top Three in the State

The Duquesne University School of Law achieved an 84.25% first-time pass rate on the July 2021 Pennsylvania bar exam administered remotely for the second time in the commonwealth's history due to continuing COVID-19 challenges.

This result places Duquesne Law third among 11 Pennsylvania area schools. The Law School devoted significant time, resources and physical space for its bar takers this administration because of the continued stresses of administering a timed and secure attorney-licensing examination during an ongoing global pandemic.

"These test results serve to highlight our Law School's incredible ability to prepare our graduates for what comes next in their lives and careers," Duquesne School of Law Dean April Barton said. "We all pulled together in an extraordinary way-our alumni, faculty, staff, and graduates-to make this administration of the bar examination as stress-free as it could possibly be given that more than 70 of our graduates took the exam right here in our Law School. We could not be more pleased that our graduates met with this degree of success."

Despite technology issues experienced across the country this year, Duquesne graduates' scores reflected their extensive preparation and were competitive with other top law programs in the state, said Duquesne Director of Bar Studies Ashley London.
"Imagine your computer screen going blank during the highest-stakes examination of your entire life," London said. "Our graduates pulled through with a degree of fortitude that really illustrates the kind of cool-headed leadership they will demonstrate as licensed attorneys. I am so proud their hard work and preparation paid off."

Some highlights from the Pennsylvania results include:
• Duquesne's first-time pass rate of 84.25% outpaced the statewide average of 77.22% for all first-time takers.
• This marks the sixth consecutive year the law school has outperformed the state average.
• Duquesne's overall pass rate of 80% significantly exceeded the statewide overall passage rate of 69.43%.

Duquesne Law graduates performed extraordinarily well in other jurisdictions in the July 2021 administration of the bar examination as well. Twenty-six graduates from May 2021 sat for the bar examination in 16 different jurisdictions, including West Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, New Mexico and New Hampshire. In each of those jurisdictions, Duquesne Law graduates posted a 100% bar pass rate.

"Our graduates pass the bar examination in whatever jurisdiction they choose to sit," said London. "Our programming is designed to help all of our graduates meet their long-term personal and professional goals."

In the Winter 2021 edition of prelaw Magazine, Duquesne was recognized as one of the top law schools in the country whose graduates outperformed other law schools in terms of its bar passage metrics. Bar passage rates are "the single best outcome assessing whether a law school is maintaining a ‘rigorous program of legal education'," according to the American Bar Association (ABA).

Since February 2018, the ABA requires law schools to report their "ultimate bar passage rates," which track law school graduates for a period of two years or four bar exam cycles (July and February). In 2018, the School of Law reported an ultimate bar passage rate of 93.3% for its class of 2016, placing Duquesne ahead of other Pennsylvania law graduates in terms of bar passage rates. More information on the ultimate bar passage rate can be found here.

Bar Prep Focus on the Evening Division: Revitalizing a Historic Component of Duquesne University

A program of opportunity continues to invest in graduate success.

Leaving a full-time job to attend law school is not an option for everyone, and it never has been, according to Ashley London, Duquesne University School of Law's Director of Bar Studies.

"Evening law students face unique challenges in terms of the time and resources needed to meet their goals of becoming licensed attorneys," says London. "They are often supporting not only themselves but also their families with their full-time jobs. We don't believe non-traditional students should be precluded from studying the law."

That's why this year Duquesne Law committed to revitalizing the programming for evening students and focused on providing them even more innovative and personalized approaches to bar study, according to London.

"After all, the Law School as it stands today would not exist if not for the evening program," says London.

Duquesne University School of Law has pioneered an evening program of legal studies since its beginnings. Three years after opening its doors, the Law School announced it would begin offering classes between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. in the heart of the city's financial district to better serve the working population of Pittsburgh.

That spirit of service, sacrifice and opportunity continues today on the Bluff. Even though Duquesne Law is no longer the only Pennsylvania law school to offer an evening program, its focus and commitment to this unique population remains a source of pride.
"Our Evening Division is a critical component of our program of legal studies," says April Barton, Dean of Duquesne University School of Law. "Our Spiritan mission urges us to be a school of opportunity for everyone, and offering an evening program allows us to provide students from diverse backgrounds an alternative path to a career in the law."

The Law School offers its Bar Excellence Strategic Training (BEST) program to all graduating law students in both the day and evening divisions. For the July 2021 bar exam, held during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BEST team did even more than usual. Because the bar exam was administered remotely, the Law School hosted 73 bar takers on campus over the course of the two- and three day exams, many in law faculty members' personal offices.

The evening students faced even more hurdles given their busy schedules and commitments. London and the faculty, adjunct and alumni members of the Bar Studies Team addressed these issues by providing every evening graduate with a BEST mentor who had been an evening student and had been through the same process they were now going through. Generous funding provided by the Duquesne Law Alumni Association was directed specifically toward meeting the additional needs of our evening graduates. It all paid off: Our 2021 evening graduates had a 94% pass rate for Pennsylvania for July 2021.

"The BEST Program helps evening students mitigate the bar exam risks associated with full-time employment and concurrent schooling through its highly supportive and engaging model," says Lydia Wardi, a senior regulatory analyst with Gateway Health in Legal Operations and Government affairs in Pittsburgh. "BEST mentees are provided with individualized passage diagnostics, bar support information for their testing jurisdiction, and an array of discretionary supplemental practice assignments and bar simulation exercises."

Wardi, a May 2020 graduate from the evening program, knows first-hand the challenges and triumphs of being a non-traditional student who was employed full time while attending Duquesne Law. She passed the Pennsylvania bar examination on her first attempt in October 2020 during the height of the pandemic and was determined to give back.

"I was adamant that I wanted to participate in the BEST program as a mentor so I could help evening students like myself gain licensure and finally reap the benefits of a challenging and protracted law school journey," says Wardi. "Each BEST mentor caters to the learning style, specific bar study needs and engagement preferences of that student, which makes the experience truly individualized."

To make the July 2021 BEST programming accessible to both evening and full-time day students, practice sessions were scheduled on the weekends, and wellness events were held after working hours. Full-time faculty and adjuncts played critical roles as mentors and as subject matter expert resources for our bar takers.

"I am confident we provided our evening division graduates with a focused, individualized and intense bar study experience," says London. "Our evening students and graduates mean a lot to us and we are committed to their first-time bar passage success."