The Charleston School of Law's bar exam pass rate predictably dropped on the most recent administration of the test.

Forty eight Charleston School of Law graduates took the bar exam in February and 23, or 48 percent of them, passed it, according to the data posted on the Supreme Court Office of Bar Admissions' Web site Friday. Seventy percent of the law school's graduates who took the test in July passed it.

"The fail rate is usually higher" for the February test because of the higher number of repeat test-takers, state Supreme Court Clerk Daniel Shearouse said. That's true in South Carolina and nationally, he said.

Law school graduates can take the test in July or February. But, Shearouse said, "far fewer" test-takers sign up for the winter test administration.

He also said the court didn't make any changes since July in the way the bar exam is administered or scored. After discovering a scoring error on the July test, court officials decided to pass 20 test-takers who had originally failed the exam.

Charleston School of Law's interim dean, Andy Abrams, said he thinks the school, which opened in 2004, is moving smoothly toward full accreditation by the American Bar Association.

The school earned provisional accreditation in 2006, he said. To get that, it had to demonstrate that it was "in substantial compliance" with standards set by the association's Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. It has up to five years to earn full accreditation.

"We expect to earn full accreditation," Abrams said. "We have no reason to believe we wouldn't. It shouldn't be a stretch."

According to the council's new standards, which were adopted in February, a law school's bar passage rate is sufficient if it meets one of the following criteria:

--Within the five most recently completed calendar years, 75 percent or more of graduates who took the exam (any number of times) passed it.

--In at least three of the past five calendar years, 75 percent or more of the students who took the exam the year they graduated passed it.

--In three or more of the five most recently completed calendar years, the rate at which students pass the exam the first time they take it is no more than 15 points below the average first-time pass rate for graduates of ABA-approved law schools in the same jurisdiction.

Abrams said that it's likely that the Class of 2008, many members of which will take the test in July, will have a higher pass rate than the Class of 2007, the first group to graduate from the Charleston School of Law.

Students who will graduate in May have learned things about the bar exam from students who graduated and took the test last year, he said. And they'll simply want to outperform the previous class, he said. "Law students are a competitive lot."

Bar exam pass rates

July 2007 February 2008

# of takers pass rate # of takers pass rate

CSOL

166 70 % 48 48 %

USC

211 92 % 34 65 %

Source: South Carolina Supreme Court Office of Bar Admissions