Baylor Law leads Texas in bar exam passing rates

By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer, Video by Grace Smith | Broadcast Reporter

Baylor Law School faculty attributed state-leading bar exam passing rates to a rigorous curriculum and real-world experience.

Baylor Law once again led all Texas law schools in bar exam passage rates following the release of July’s test results. Baylor registered a passing rate of 93.48%, roughly 12% above the state average. Out of 38 bar exams since 2001, Baylor posted the top passing rate in 25.

Brad Toben has served as dean of Baylor Law School since 1991. Toben said the key ingredient in Baylor’s “simply unmatched” record is the law school’s rigor.

“The law school is known for its rigor,” Toben said. “We bring our students in, we put a fire under them in their first year, we bring the fire up to a higher flame the second year and we bring it the full flame in third in the Practice Court program.”

One professor tasked with pushing Baylor Law’s students to succeed is Jim Wren. Wren said he takes this role seriously.

“[I] work their tails off,” Wren said. “What they’re getting through the Baylor education, and in particular the third – year Practice Court program, is that constant heat, that rigor, and that is what makes the difference.”

Wren teaches the law school’s Practice Court program, which is unique among Texas law schools and bills itself as an “all-in, hands-on, total experience” designed to test students in a realistic and demanding environment. The dedication needed to survive the program, Wren said, is a large part of why Baylor students pass the bar exam at such high rates.

“It’s a six-month ordeal in the third year of law school… everyone no matter where they’re going to be… has to go through the Practice Court program,” Wren said. “For six months we essentially own their schedule: the first three months that is all they are doing; the second three months we let them start to be reintegrated into society and they start to take a couple of other courses with it… it is an all-day everyday sort of program where they’re spending mornings in the classroom and afternoons, evenings… in the courtroom… that’s why Baylor is known as the place that fun goes to die.”

With Baylor Law consistently besting other Texas law schools, Toben said the plan for maintaining its success moving forward is to continue with its winning formula.

“In large part, we’re going to keep doing what we’ve done for many, many decades,” Toben said. “We are so proud of what we are that I always remind everyone… when we write or type Baylor lawyer, obviously it has a capital B but it also has a capital L because it’s not just a descriptor, it’s also a brand.”

Not to be overlooked is the role of the students themselves in Baylor Law’s success. Wren said Baylor Law is able to attract motivated students by being up front about the program’s rigors.

“The reason, in part, that we are able to do what we do is because we are very frank with potential students coming here… that if they do come here they will work harder for their JD (Juris Doctorate) degree than they will for an equivalent JD degree elsewhere, and therefore there is a real self-selection that goes on,” Wren said. “There are a certain number of applicants that say, ‘Why should I do that?’ and then there’s a certain percentage that say, ‘That is what I want, sign me up.’”