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The results of the February 2012 South Carolina bar exam are in … and it was tough sledding for the Palmetto State’s two law schools.

According to results released by the S.C. Supreme Court this week, only 40.3 percent of Charleston School of Law (CSOL) graduates passed the exam. Meanwhile 57.8 percent of graduates of the University of South Carolina law school passed.

Yikes, right?

In fact these results were so bad that we’re sure the court was probably tempted to throw out a section of the exam in an effort to artificially raise the passage rate (err, wait … they’ve done that before).

In contrast to these abysmal scores, 72.2 percent of students from out-of-state law schools passed the exam – resulting in a total passage rate of 61.2 percent. That’s a precipitous thirteen-point drop from July 2011 – when the total passage rate was just above 74 percent.

Results on the February bar exam are generally lower than results of the July bar exam, but this year’s results also fell well below last February’s 69.7 percent passage rate. A year ago 63.5 percent of Charleston School of Law students passed the exam compared to 69.5 percent of USC students.

Why are our law schools struggling?

Well, we wrote earlier this week on the latest drama to befall the Charleston School of Law – and we’ve written extensively in the past about the drama at USC’s flailing law school (which recently hired a bunch of Republican retreads to cushy fundraising jobs).

As recently as a decade ago, USC’s law school was ranked in the high 70s or low 80s according to U.S. News and World Report, but it has now dropped out of the Top 100 altogether and into dreaded “Tier 3? status.

Looks like the beat goes on …