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12/14/06

NY State Bar requests lower cut-off for passing bar exam score

Would-be lawyers with borderline passing scores on the bar exam may have something to be thankful for this holiday season. Now, with the New York State Bar Association batting for such lawyers, hope remains for keeping the passing score consistent. In July of 2005, the passing score had been raised from 660 to 665 out of 1000. The Board of Law Examiners is proposing additional increases in the passing score, which will steadily raise the passing score to 675 over a three year period. But the State Bar, which has been opposed to the increase from the start, is citing a threat to diversity as their main objection to the plan.

The proposition for the change has been in the air since 2003. Mark Alcott, president of the New York State Bar Association, has urged for a reversal of the July 2005 five-point change, and continues to voice the association's opposition to any additional increases. Alcott has expressed that the increase in the bar exam passing score has had a disproportionate effect on minority examinees, and that it is for this reason that the New York State Bar Association has opposed the plan from the beginning.

These effects can already be seen through the drop in minority examinees who passed the bar exam since to five-point increase was implemented. Although the number of white examinees who passed with scores acceptable under the new terms of the bar exam dropped by only 1.1%, the rate of decline among ethnic minorities was substantially higher. According to New York State Board of Law Examiners' report regarding these effects, the number of passing African Americans dropped by 3.9% and the number of passing Puerto Ricans fell by 4.1%. Buttressing his argument against the increase, Alcott added that in 2004 the Bar Association had reissued their opposition, urging the Board of Examiners to wait until the impact of the score's adjustment could be studied. Now the results are in, and the motivations of the association in opposing the increase have been confirmed.

Now that the suspected effects of the change have been confirmed, the association is calling for an immediate reversal of the point increase, and a complete cessation of any further changes. Alcott expressed that anything less than the complete reversal of the increase proposal would have a disastrous effect on the core principles that the bar holds dear, and would undermine the legal profession itself.

Orrick-Dewey merger slackens pace
The official recognition of the union between San Francisco-based law firms Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Dewey Ballantine is moving at a snail's pace. In October of this year, the respective management and executive committees of both the firms had made primary recommendations to their partners about combining operations under a single banner, Dewey Orrick LLP.

The committee leaders expected their respective partners to vote on the merger this month. However, the specifications of a partnership agreement are coming along more slowly than anticipated. Voting is now expected to take place no earlier than mid January of 2007. With the seventh-largest New York law office, and combined revenue of approximately US $1 billion, Dewey Orrick LLP would contend for a position among the top ten firms in the nation, and could boast an attorney-strength of 1500, globally.

Though the groundwork for the merger seems to have been laid, progress is dragging. The dawdling of both firms is due in part to the myriad of details which must be finalized and approved regarding responsibilities, benefits, and organization of the firm upon the merger. Other issues such as real estate leases, tax implications of the firms' merger, and the impact on revenue that will be brought about by currency exchanges once the firm goes global, all have an effect on the pace at which the merger is moving.
Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

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