young woman wearing commencement regalia, standing at a podium.

Chanel Powell at the Class of 2023 Commencement Ceremony.

Prepared for Success

Bar passage rate soars upward

UB School of Law graduates are poised to succeed, and the results from July’s New York State Bar Exam confirm it. The recently released results show 85.48 percent of first-time UB Law test takers passed the rigorous exam—a jump of more than 10 percentage points from last year.

Significantly, that rate outshines the rate for all first-time NY Bar Exam takers from ABA-approved law schools nationwide (84.73 percent) and exceeds the average for first-time NY Bar Exam takers from ABA-approved law schools in the State of New York (82.52 percent), home to several highly regarded private law schools.

“We are extremely proud of the Class of 2023, who embraced the challenge of starting law school during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and never faltered,” says Interim Dean S. Todd Brown. “These results, together with our Pro Bono Scholars’ 100 percent passage rate on the February bar exam, reflect not only the resilience of our students and graduates, but also the commitment of our faculty and staff who continue to explore new and innovative ways to position our students for success.”

Give to Our Bar Exam Support Fund
Questions? Contact Vice Dean Karen R. Kaczmarski at 716-645-6429 or

Over the past several years, the law school has instituted a series of new support initiatives to equip new graduates to clear this final academic hurdle as they begin their professional careers. The most recent include a summer bar prep program providing group and individual study space in the Charles B. Sears Law Library and offering courses in test-taking strategies. Additionally, the law school provides a series of supplemental workshops and Q&A opportunities for students during their bar prep period, taught by the school’s doctrinal faculty.

And the Class of 2023 was the first to experience a mini-bar exam at the end of their 1L year that replicates the style of the New York State bar exam. The simulation both familiarized students with the challenge that awaited them and provided important feedback to the faculty.

Professor Christine Bartholomew, vice dean for academic affairs, credits those new efforts along with a focus on bar-prep completion for the outstanding bar results. “The Class of 2023 tackled the mini-bar as 1Ls, selected challenging upper-division courses, utilized UB’s post-graduation bar review sessions, and met that magic mark of 90 percent bar prep completion,” she says. “The results of those combined efforts showed.”

William MacDonald, assistant dean for academic and bar success, also cites assistance provided to students with financial need as contributing to the graduates’ success. The school negotiated the purchase of bar prep courses and distributed them without cost to two dozen students.

“The students who received these scholarships passed at the same rate as the students who didn’t,” says MacDonald, “which suggests that they benefited from this help. Our goal is to make this self-sustaining.” Eligible students either couldn’t afford the cost of the course, which can be thousands of dollars, or would have had to work to offset that cost, cutting into their available study time. The scholarships are funded, in part, by generous alumni donations and a significant University investment.

As MacDonald notes, “This jump to over 85 percent is significant, and it is very gratifying to see that some of the things we’ve put into place in the last few years have had a beneficial effect.”

Give to Our Bar Exam Support Fund
Questions? Contact Vice Dean Karen R. Kaczmarski at 716-645-6429 or

two men in a classroom, smiling.

Two Veteran Educators Named Assistant Deans
The appointments of William MacDonald as assistant dean for academic and bar success, and Patrick J. Long as assistant dean for professional development, aim to create seamless support for students. [Read the article]