July 2023 test takers achieved a first-time bar passage rate of 93%, a dramatic improvement year over year.
Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The recent Iowa bar passage results show remarkable improvements in performance for Iowa Law graduates. This year, Iowa Law had 59 grads taking the Iowa bar exam, including 55 taking the exam for the first time. These alums achieved a cumulative bar passage rate of 92% and a 93% first-time bar passage rate. 

First-time bar passage rate of 93%

Iowa's overall bar passage rate stood at 86%, with a first-time pass rate of 88%. Thus, Iowa Law graduates have not only met but exceeded the statewide average and made significant improvements over last year's numbers. 

The past few years have been exceptionally trying, primarily due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2022, the statewide bar pass rate dipped to 79%, with Iowa Law's performance at 76%. The first-time bar pass rate for the state stood at 83%, while Iowa Law recorded a pass rate of only 79%. These figures raised concerns within the college and prompted the exploration and implementation of new programs to bolster bar exam success.

“In 2020, we recognized the many challenges created by COVID and set about to expand our academic success programming. We combined our writing center and academic success program under one umbrella to create synergies in developing students’ writing and other academic skills. We also expanded our academic success programming for 1Ls, offering a robust 14-week, first-semester program focusing on all aspects of law school success, and a second-semester 9-week program designed to strengthen first-semester competencies and develop community,” says Dawn Anderson, Legal Analysis, Writing & Research professor and director of the Writing and Academic Success Center.

Improvements in bar passage this year also highlight more recent efforts from passionate individuals and innovative departments at Iowa Law. One significant initiative was a new bar preparation course for 3L students led by Professors Dawn Anderson, Todd Pettys, and Dean Emily Hughes. This specialized course aims to equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed on the bar exam. 

Furthermore, under the leadership of Tami Diebel, assistant director of career services, the Office of Career Services provided support during the crucial summer months, ensuring students were well-prepared for the bar exam. Dean Carin Crain and Melissa Norman, director of career and student services, also contributed significantly to these efforts. 

“Our extended bar prep course, added in 2023, and the summer support we provided to students studying for the bar rounded out our efforts. We couldn’t be more thrilled with our students’ bar passage success. Passing the bar exam is the final step for our graduates to achieve their dreams of becoming lawyers and making a lasting impact,” says Anderson. 

As Iowa Law continues to invest in programs and resources to enhance student success, the college remains focused on fostering well-prepared and successful legal professionals. The recent achievement of exceeding statewide bar passage rates is a testament to the resilience, dedication, and unwavering support of the Iowa Law community and holds great promise for the future of its graduates in the legal profession. 

The 2023 July Iowa Bar Exam Statistical Report is available here. For a full list of reports visit: Iowa Courts.