Idaho's new crop of lawyers this year is likely much smaller due to a steep drop in the number and share of people who passed the most recent bar exam.
About 65 percent of test takers passed the July exam — one of two tests offered to would-be Idaho lawyers each year. That is the lowest July pass rate in Idaho since 2002, when 60 percent of test takers passed.
"While it was lower than the previous July pass rate, it's not unprecedented, and it's not a total abnormality being under 70 percent," said Maureen Ryan Braley, director of admissions for the Idaho State Bar. "In Idaho, when we give the bar exam to so few applicants ... it really takes a small number of applicants to create what appear to be drastic swings in our pass rate."
In July, 126 people took the Idaho bar exam, which was slightly fewer than average.
July's exam is the first opportunity for most law-school graduates to take the test — required to practice law in Idaho — and about 76 percent of them pass, on average. Candidates who fail the July exam often retake it in February, which averaged a 71 percent pass rate during the past 12 years.
Idaho is one of several states whose July bar exam scores plummeted, prompting the deans of many law schools to send a letter to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, calling for "a thorough investigation of the administration and scoring" of the July test, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Mark L. Adams, dean of the University of Idaho College of Law, signed that letter.
The Wall Street Journal reported the National Conference of Bar Examiners had blamed the low pass rates on the students — that they weren't as capable of passing as previous classes.
The bar does not analyze the relationship between pass rates and other factors, like law school performance, Braley said.
The system that Idaho and many other states use for bar exams crashed in July. But the system's company ExamSoft said the crash did not affect anyone's answers on the tests, just delayed submission of those answers.