By Julia Vergara | Staff Writer
The Baylor University Law School has once again been ranked No. 1 in the Texas Bar Exam results, which were released on Nov. 21, 2017.
Baylor Law had a 92.92 percent pass rate according to the July 2017 Texas Bar Exam results, surpassing schools such as the University of Texas School of Law (91.60 percent pass rate) and Texas Tech University School of Law (87.12 percent pass rate).
Since 2001, Baylor Law has been ranked No. 1 for 21 out of 33 bar exams given, according to Baylor.
“We have led on the bar exam for any time period that you choose — Whether it’s a year, five years, 10, or 20 or 30, and that’s a reflection of the faculty,” Dean and the M.C. and Mattie Caston Professor of Law Brad Toben said.
Toben said that Baylor Law’s faculty and staff are tremendously creative in expanding the program and deeply invested in making sure that it stays true to every aspect of the school’s mission.
In order to get students “ready to lawyer,” Toben said that while presenting material to students, they have an objective to make sure students understand how the material actually plugs into practice. Toben said that is a hallmark of Baylor Law — getting students ready to practice upon graduation.
“Theory is quite important and we cover the theory, but we go a step further in our courses to show our students how the theory translates into practice,” Toben said.
Associate Dean and Professor of Law Leah Teague said that while most law schools emphasize teaching students how to think like lawyers, Baylor has always done more.
“In addition to things that all law schools have traditionally done, our program requires more and we expect more of our students than you will find at most other law schools,” Teague said.
In legal education today, there is more emphasis on giving law students practical skills training, which Baylor offers through experiential opportunities, Teague said.
While Baylor Law teaches students how to think like lawyers and gives them practical skills training, Teague said that there is a third level law schools should be doing — teaching students how to be a honorable professionals.
“We created a required professional development program that is designed to expose our students to the other aspects of what it means to be a lawyer, a professional beyond just the things they learn in the classroom,” Teague said. “The professional development program is to kind of meet that last level of ‘what does it mean to be an honorable professional?’”
2017 Baylor Law graduate and newly licensed attorney Lena Proft said that in addition to the standard classes that all law students have to take, Baylor Law requires students to take additional courses that are all heavily tested on the bar exam but are not required at other law schools.
“Baylor is well known for preparing you for the bar exam,” Proft said. “In high school, you hear teaching to the test is bad, but in law school you want to be taught to the test because the bar exam determines whether you’re licensed or not.”
Proft said that while Baylor Law faculty and staff do push their students, they are also cheering them on.
“During bar prep, they make sure the Baylor students know that they’re being cheered for,” Proft said. “So if you are up-to-date on your bar prep, then you’ll get emails from professors being like, ‘Hey, good job — Keep up the good effort!’ and if you start slipping behind on your bar prep, then you’ll get emails like, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’ It’s kind of like a support group because they know what we’re going through.”
Since Baylor has a smaller law school, with a matriculating class of around 150 students, there is more of a one-on-one relationship between students and faculty, Proft said. Baylor Law’s faculty has an open door policy so that if a student has a question, there is always someone to ask.
Proft also said that Baylor Law is small enough that she knew every single person in her graduating class and that all the students were always there to help each other out. By the end, they were all close enough that the bar exam felt like a team success.
“When you see your own name, it’s an individual success, but when the state bar statistics came out and Baylor was number one, we viewed it as a team success because we have been through so much in the past three years together,” Proft said.