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New course prepares future lawyers to pass bar exam

Drake Law School recently raised its bar exam passage rate for first-time test takers to 100 percent, thanks to a new course that prepares law students to master the challenge.

“Essentially, if we are trying to train lawyers, the last major hurdle before they become practicing lawyers is the Iowa Bar Examination,” said Gordon Allen, visiting professor of law, who teaches the course. “If we train them as lawyers, we need to train for the bar exam.”

The Bar Examination Preparation class, which launched in fall 2009, was created to bring the bar exam into the core curriculum.

“We began following a national movement among law schools to offer more related experiences to the actual practice of law and also to give students a better feel for the bar exam as part of the curriculum,” Allen said.

So far, 41 students have taken advantage of the course, including the first class of 15 from the fall semester who took the exam in February and achieved a 100 percent pass rate. The second group of 26 from the spring semester will take the bar exam in July and results will be available in September.

Allen, who previously worked in the Iowa attorney general’s office, helped develop the course with Professor of Law and Associate Dean Russ Lovell. The three-hour credit class is ungraded and approved for American Bar Association credit.

“The course helps students get to know the requirements and an outline of how to take the test, which helps them cut down on the time they spend studying for the exam,” Allen added. “I was pleased to report that we had two students who took the course here and went to take the MBE elsewhere and passed it. The popularity of the course has really grown.”

The prep class teaches students what subject matters are weakest and strongest for them and gives students the opportunity to focus on the areas in which they need to improve.

Students take timed practice tests that include 1,600-1,800 multiple-choice questions and 10-12 written essays that are similar to those on the bar exam.

The course, which will be offered again in the fall 2010 and spring 2011 semesters, also prepares students well for the Multistate Bar Examination multiple-choice test that is uniform across nation.

“The bar exam is very challenging, and a 100 percent pass rate is unheard of,” said Emily Hippen, who took the course. “It says a lot about the class, the teacher, and the quality of education that Drake provides. “The biggest thing I got out of the bar prep course was the understanding that the exam is a serious event — there’s no slacking off if one expects to pass.”

Hippen, who received her juris doctorate from Drake in 2009, serves as an associate at Kilpatrick Stockton LLP in Atlanta. She credited her Drake professors for providing her with the tools to pass the bar exam and to begin a successful law career.

“Professor Allen was a great coach during the course and the two months that we were devoting to full-time study before the exam,” Hippen said. “He was there to remind us that we would all get through it and that we were well-prepared. His coaching is the best part of the class, and he made himself incredibly available to the students.”