illustration of a figure running with several arrows pointing in one direction, includes texts that says Rally the Pass, 90%.

Rallying for bar success

Passing the bar is a bit of a numbers game—and 90 seems to be the magic number. 

That is, data shows that UB Law graduates who complete at least 90 percent of their commercial bar preparation course are very likely to succeed in their first attempt to pass the New York Bar Exam. In fact, of those UB Law graduates who reached or exceeded the 90% completion mark, 98.39% passed the 2023 July bar on their first attempt. 

And as UB Law’s Class of 2024 looks ahead to the bar exam at the end of July, the law school is embarking on an ambitious initiative to support their success.  Rally the Pass – a pilot project launching on April 1st - builds on the law school’s evolving efforts to support students through the intensive study period leading up to the exam, with a laser focus on helping them reach that 90 percent threshold in bar prep.

“We want the students to know that preparation for the bar is something we take very seriously, and we want them to take it very seriously as well,” says William MacDonald, assistant dean for academic and bar success. “We want them to realize that we're in this together.” 

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Karen Kaczmarski
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716-645-6429 or

two men wearing glasses, standing next to a white board in a classroom.

Prof. Patrick Long ’00 and Prof. William MacDonald

The law school has built a robust program of bar prep support in recent years, such as providing law library space for students to watch the bar prep content together as a group; establishing an emergency fund so students aren’t distracted by financial crises; enlisting faculty and other guests to review critical areas of law; and offering a course on bar exam strategies taught by MacDonald—a course that two-thirds of this year’s graduating class is taking. 

Additionally, the comfort of good (and free) food is periodically provided during the most intense weeks of bar study. This summer, UB’s Newman Center will host two “taco nights” during the prep period and donate Food for Thought grocery bags filled with staples such as mac and cheese, pasta and sauce, ramen, and peanut butter and jelly. 

Rally the Pass encompasses all these expanding initiatives under one umbrella, with the bonus of a newly structured program that will track participants’ progress and provide ongoing encouragement to keep them focused and on track. It’s a full team effort to build camaraderie and promote success with support from faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as a significant financial investment by the University and donor support.

Throughout April graduating students will be invited to join the law school’s “Herd of Champions” and commit to the 90% challenge. Their immediate reward is a stainless-steel Rally the Pass water bottle. The Office of Academic Success will then keep track of their progress through their commercial bar prep course. Additional Rally the Pass swag will serve as rewards as they reach milestones at the 25, 50, and 75% marks, and motivate them to keep going. Those who cross the critical 90% threshold will receive a $50 gift card, courtesy of the UB Law Alumni Association.  

“The Law Alumni Association is committed to supporting the law school and its graduates, particularly as they prepare to enter the profession,” says Michael Hecker ’09, LAA president. “We are pleased to be a part of the school’s ongoing efforts to ensure access to the resources needed for bar success.”

“We hope this really puts people in the mindset that getting to 90% is the key,” MacDonald says. “We want to get across the message that you can do this, you should do this, and if you’re having any trouble doing this, you know where to look for help. It’s peer support—the more students are aware of what other people are doing, the more they will realize what they need to do to keep pace.”

woman wearing green dress, smiling.

Vice Dean Christine Bartholomew

Prof. Christine Bartholomew, vice dean for academic affairs, worked with MacDonald and Patrick Long '00, assistant dean for professional development, to come up with the Rally the Pass concept. This initiative builds on Bartholomew’s years of work on multiple bar-related projects and a thorough analysis of the data on bar pass rates. “The Rally the Pass Initiative allows the law school to build on its recent successes,” Bartholomew says. “Over the last several years, the school has actively strengthened multiple facets of its curricular plan, from 1L courses through upper-division offerings. This work has paid off with record high bar passage and job placement figures. This initiative builds on our existing post-graduation programming and services, to help ensure UB graduates are even more prepared for success on the bar and beyond.”

 Another key feature of the Rally the Pass initiative is helping students who need financial assistance with paying for a commercial bar prep course, which can cost up to $3,000. For some students, that means they won’t have to work during bar prep to offset costs, freeing them for more comprehensive study. 

The Law Alumni Association is covering some of those costs, and UB Law alums have stepped up in a big way to help make that happen with generous donations to the law school’s bar support fund. That includes Hon. Barbara Howe ’80 (Ret.), former Erie County Surrogate.

“As a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council, I was inspired by Interim Dean [S. Todd] Brown’s presentation to the Council last fall on the contributors to bar success,” Judge Howe says. “There is a direct link between adequate financial support to facilitate proper bar review and the likelihood of success on the exam. We must work collectively to remove financial barriers and invest in our graduates’ success.”