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Mississippi Supreme Court Ends Unlimited Bar Exam Attempts With Four-Strike Rule

The Mississippi Supreme Court has decided that an aspiring lawyer can only attempt the bar exam four times before they are prohibited from trying again. The test is part of the requirements for admission to practice law in the state and the State previously allowed an unlimited number of attempts.

The justices announced the change to the Rules Governing Admission to the Mississippi Bar in a Dec. 14, 2022, press release, after a request from the nine-member Mississippi Board of Bar Examinations. They quietly approved the new rule on Nov. 10; it says an “applicant who has unsuccessfully taken the Mississippi Bar Exam at least four (4) times shall not be eligible for re-examination.”

The Supreme Court appoints the nine-member Mississippi Board of Bar Admissions, whose members each serve three year terms.

“The Mississippi Board of Bar Admissions requested the change in a petition, citing recent lower bar passage rates both in Mississippi and nationwide, in addition to the fact that large numbers of repeat exam takers ‘adversely and significantly affected pass rates in Mississippi’ as reasons for requesting the Rule change,” the Supreme Court said in the press release.

According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, Mississippi’s overall bar exam pass rate in July 2022 was 71% for all applicants, 75% for first timers and just 33% for repeat takers.

Mississippi Board of Bar Admissions Chair Marcie Baria presented the recommendation to the Supreme Court in a May 6, 2022, letter.

“The escalating number of applicants retaking the exam has adversely affected pass rates in Mississippi, and those retaking the exam repeatedly have not shown any significant statistical likelihood of passing on subsequent attempts,” Baria wrote. “This is particularly true for those who have taken the exam on more than four (4) occasions. Further, continued retaking of the exam could adversely affect the accreditation standing of Mississippi’s law schools.”

University of Mississippi School of Law Dean Susan H. Duncan and Mississippi College School of Law Dean Patricia Bennett wrote in August 2021 asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to limit the number of allowed bar examination attempts to four.

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