When Kevin Cieply was appointed dean of the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples last summer, he made it clear that students passing the bar exam would be his top priority.
After all, the bar is the ticket to the law profession, and Ave Maria students routinely scored below the state average for passage of the notoriously difficult test.
It didn't take long for Cieply's message to get through. Ave Maria bar passage rates ranked first in the state on the most recent exam, with 83% of its graduates passing the February bar test on their first try. This exceeded the statewide average of 64.3%.
In addition to restructuring classes to better prepare students to take the bar exam, the school plans to name a new director of bar preparation to assist every graduate. High rates of passage will boost the school's reputation and fundraising efforts. That's important to recruit and retain students and to boost donors' confidence the law school can thrive.
Ave Maria has big plans, among them to purchase the campus it currently leases at the Vineyards development in north Naples. It has launched a $3.2 million capital fundraising campaign, and already received $1 million from an undisclosed donor.