New Lawyers Yimeng Dou and Sam Lam
Newly minted lawyers Yimeng Dou, left, and Sam Lam from the inaugural class of UC Irvine School of Law give each other a celebratory high-five during a swearing-in ceremony at the UCI Student Center. Steve Zylius / University Communications

They entered the room as recent law school graduates and left as lawyers.

Nearly 200 people attended UC Irvine School of Law’s first swearing-in ceremony and reception for new members of the California bar on Sunday, Dec. 2, at the UCI Student Center.

UCI Law’s inaugural graduating class passed the California bar exam at a rate of 90 percent – 46 of 51 – on their first try, which places the law school among the top in the state for bar passage rate. In addition, three Class of 2012 members who took the bar exam in other states also passed.

The State Bar of California reported last month that 55.3 percent of total applicants passed the July exam. The average pass rate of California’s schools accredited by the American Bar Association is 77 percent for first-time takers, bar statistics show.

Pass rates for each school will not be released for a few weeks, but bar statistics from 2011 show that a 90 percent pass rate would have placed UCI Law second among ABA-accredited California schools.

“We are extraordinarily pleased that our first graduating class had such a tremendous showing,” says UCI Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky. “It reflects not only the high academic merit of the students but also the strength of our educational program.”

On Sunday, Judge Glenda Sanders of the Orange County Superior Court administered the state court oath. Judge Andrew Guilford swore in the new bar members to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. State Bar Executive Director Joe Dunn delivered remarks, as did Dean Chemerinsky and UCI Law graduate and new bar member Christopher Dalbey.

The three-day California bar exam, which is given in February and July, consists of a multiple-choice Multistate Bar Examination, six essay questions and two performance tests.

“For a lot of people, passing the bar is a dream come true,” says new bar member Mohammed Elayan. “It feels like the end of the first leg of a long journey. I can’t believe it was years ago I decided to go to law school,” says Elayan, an associate at the Newport Beach law firm Straddling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, PC.

Elayan is also the first president of the first UCI Law alumni association. Like the new law school, he says, the alumni group is a work in progress: “We want to serve the alumni of the school and that includes providing professional and social networking opportunities, mentorship, empowering alums to start chapters in other cities, and helping with development efforts.”