Stats don't lie: Attorney licensure problems persist in South Dakota
Guest column by Jessica Four Bear, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe prosecutor
As a result of enhanced criteria imposed by the Board of Bar Examiners in 2015, the passage rate of South Dakota Bar Applicants dropped dramatically in South Dakota. Only 39 percent of University of South Dakota law graduates in the class of 2016 passed the bar exam. There has been very little improvement in subsequent years, with the passage rates subsequently going to 45 percent and 52 percent.
Despite assurances given by Law School Dean Neil Fulton, there has been no improvement in recent years. In fact, there was a decline in the licensure rate of South Dakota attorneys in 2023. The law school graduated 59 students this past May. Of these 59 graduates, only 27 passed the South Dakota Bar Exam. This data demonstrates that South Dakota’s law school is supplying lawyers at the rate of 45 percent per graduating class.
VIEWPOINT: The facts about South Dakota’s Bar Exam
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