November 07, 2006

Law school graduates make strong bar exam showing

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Graduates of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's law school continue to exceed state averages when successfully taking the Illinois State Bar Exam.

Eighty-eight percent of the 86 SIU School of Law graduates taking the test for the first time in July passed the examination, compared with the statewide average of 88 percent, Dean Peter C. Alexander said. The test results also include older alumni who graduated earlier but also took the test for the first time. The law school's passing rate for all graduates who took the exam is 83 percent; also one percent higher than the state's average, he said.

"Eighty-eight percent is very good and being above the state average is exciting news," Alexander said. "It is consistent with our performances in other states."

Assistant professor Suzanne J. Schmitz, coordinator of the law school's academic success program, said it was noticeable that the Class of 2006 graduates worked hard studying for the exam. The law school was among the first law schools in the nation to offer additional bar exam preparation – including workshops and simulated essay exams. The eight-week program is in addition to a private, commercially run bar review course that graduates pay to attend.

"Several faculty observed that the May 2006 graduates were very well prepared for the exam," she said. Students met with her beginning in October 2005 to develop and then implement a bar preparation plan.

"It paid off as we see from their performance in passing at a rate higher than the state's passing rate," she said.

The results show "we prepare men and women for the practice of law very well," Alexander said. "It says the academic success program and bar preparation program that Professor Schmitz leads is value-added for our students."

Offering progressive graduate and professional education that enables students to perform at their optimum level and prepares them for distinguished careers is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.