UD Law celebrates high scores after years of needed improvements

The 2019 University of Dayton School of Law class celebrates being sworn into the Ohio Bar in November with special guest, State Senator Steve Huffman who spoke at the reception. CONTRIBUTED / University of Dayton School of Law

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The 2019 University of Dayton School of Law class celebrates being sworn into the Ohio Bar in November with special guest, State Senator Steve Huffman who spoke at the reception. CONTRIBUTED / University of Dayton School of Law

University of Dayton School of Law Class of 2019 is celebrating high marks on the July Bar Exam.

The UD program ranked third of the nine law schools in Ohio, with an 89% passage rate. Those passing students were sworn into the Ohio Bar last month.

This is a big improvement since 2015, when just 70% percent of UD graduates who took the Ohio Bar exam passed, and even fewer, 61%, passed in 2016.

Andrew Strauss, dean of UD’s law school, said implementing a bundle of reforms to get the school back on par was one of the first things he did when he arrived in 2015. Strauss said he knew it would take a few years to see if the plan worked.

Explore 2017 report: UD law school’s bar passage rate among lowest in Ohio

“In 2015, we said: OK in 2019, let’s do a review — and if they wouldn’t have worked, we’d be doing major changes now,” Strauss said. “But given that they worked, we’re really more in the tinkering mode. I think we may wait until next year to do anything more. We’re not going to do anything wholesale at this point.”

The class of 2019 is the first crop of UD law students graduating with the reforms that have been in place the entire time they’ve been enrolled.

Key strategies the school used to try to improve students’ success include adding more credits to core first-year courses; smaller class sizes; multiple assessments to track students at risk for failing the bar; requiring bar-prep courses; one-on-one tutoring; and free housing opportunities.

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“For everybody we think is at risk for failing the bar, two sessions each week is with a private tutor. I don’t know anybody else that’s doing that,” Strauss said. “The traditional law school approach, when I went to law school … sink or swim. So if you’re having problems, especially in your first semester, nobody knows until it’s really too late.”

Upping the bar passage rate is the main mark of a school’s success, Strauss said. However, making the school more attractive to the most qualified students is another way to hold on to long-term success.

“As we’ve increased selectivity and focused squarely on student success, we’ve seen an uptick in applications,” UD President Eric Spina said. “Our School of Law was one of only two in the country that enjoyed a 50 percent increase in applications for this fall’s class, according to the Law School Admission Council.”

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Applications have risen from 639 in 2015, to 1,062 in 2019, according to a UD law school report.

Although applicants increased dramatically since then, the acceptance rate has dropped from 58% to 38% — a good mark, according to Strauss. As the school’s reputation improves with better scores and higher selectivity, Strauss said better job placement will follow.

The American Bar Association measures a school’s job numbers 10 months after graduation. Strauss said the school’s director of career services predicts there will be a jump in job placement for its students.

“When these bar results came out, we all were waiting and we’ve all been really excited and everything because things are really starting to come together in a big way.”


UD law school pass rate, Ohio July Bar Exam

2015, 70%

2016, 61%

2017, 63%

2018, 70%

2019, 89%

(UD report)

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