Education

Duke Law has 6th highest bar pass rate in US

Posted April 15

For law students, passing the bar exam has always been a difficult challenge. However, recent data suggests that prospectivelawyers are having more difficulty now than in previous years.

In November 2015, the National Law Journal reported that bar exam pass rates had decreased nationwide. The suggested reason for this decline is the falling number of law school applicants, according to Derek Muller, an associate professor at Pepperdine University School of Law.

"As demand for law schools has dropped over the last few years, law schools, as a result, have been admitting and graduating less-qualified students," Muller said.

Despite the downward trend, there are law schools across the country boasting stellar bar pass rates. Using the most recent data (December 2015) from the American Bar Association Standard 509 Reports on all reported first-time bar exam takers, StartClass found the 30 law schools with the highest bar exam pass rates.

Though it is not the primary measure of the quality of a law school, the bar passage rate is a useful indicator of how effective an institution is at preparing its students to become lawyers. The main limiting factor with bar pass rate data is that each state administers a different test with varying degrees of difficulty, meaning a school's pass rate can depend largely on where its graduates choose to take the bar exam.

We've ranked each school based on its weighted bar pass rate, which takes into account that graduates take the bar in multiple states. So, for example, if Law School A has 19 out of 20 students pass the bar in California and 12 out of 15 students pass the bar in Washington, its weighted bar pass rate can be calculated like this:

(19 pass in CA + 12 pass in WA) / (20 + 15 total exam takers) = 31 / 35 = 88.6 percent

In addition, we've included each school's weighted pass rate difference. This shows how much better graduates from a given school perform in the states they take the test compared to the performance of graduates from all schools in those same states. For example, if Law School A has a weighted pass rate difference of 12.5 percent, that means its graduates did 12.5 percent better, on average, than all graduates from all law schools taking the exam in the same states.

Further, we excluded the two law schools in Wisconsin. This is because the state's diploma privilege allows graduates from Wisconsin law schools to seek admission to the State Bar of Wisconsin without having to take the bar exam, which inflates those schools' bar pass rates.

Unsurprisingly, the list features many of the illustrious "Top 14" law schools, such as Harvard, Stanford and Columbia. But there are plenty of other schools not included in the Top 14 that crack the top 10 for bar passage rates.

Note: In the event of ties, the school with the higher weighted pass rate difference was ranked higher on the list.

#30. University of Connecticut School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 89.7 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 2.1 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Connecticut

80.5 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Connecticut. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Connecticut is 87.6 percent.

#29. University of Kentucky College of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 89.8 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 9.3 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Kentucky

87.8 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Kentucky. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Kentucky is 80.5 percent.

#28. Stanford Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 90.1 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 20.3 percent
Most common jurisdiction: California

65.1 percent of graduates take the bar exam in California. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in California is 66 percent.

#27. University of Tulsa College of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 90.4 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 6.4 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Oklahoma

79.3 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Oklahoma. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Oklahoma is 84 percent.

#26. University of Pittsburgh School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 90.4 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 9.5 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Pennsylvania

78.7 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Pennsylvania. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Pennsylvania is 80.8 percent.

#25. University of Nebraska - Lincoln College of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 90.4 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 13.7 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Nebraska

78.3 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Nebraska. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Nebraska is 76.7 percent.

#24. Duquesne University School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 90.8 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 10.1 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Pennsylvania

95.7 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Pennsylvania. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Pennsylvania is 80.8 percent.

#23. Baylor Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 90.8 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 13.4 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Texas

98.4 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Texas. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Texas is 77.4 percent.

#22. Boston College Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 90.9 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 7.7 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Massachusetts

71 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Massachusetts. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Massachusetts is 83.2 percent.

#21. University of Georgia School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 90.9 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 11.1 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Georgia

81.1 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Georgia. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Georgia is 80.2 percent.

#20. Washington and Lee University School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 90.9 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 15.6 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Virginia

29.8 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Virginia. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Virginia is 72.4 percent.

#19. University of New Mexico School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 91.1 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 3.3 percent
Most common jurisdiction: New Mexico

81.8 percent of graduates take the bar exam in New Mexico. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in New Mexico is 87.8 percent.

#18. S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah

Weighted bar pass rate: 91.4 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 4.5 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Utah

85.2 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Utah. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Utah is 86.8 percent.

#17. Georgia State University College of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 91.6 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 11.4 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Georgia

100 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Georgia. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Georgia is 80.2 percent.

#16. Cornell Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 91.6 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 13 percent
Most common jurisdiction: New York

77.3 percent of graduates take the bar exam in New York. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in New York is 78.6 percent.

#15. University of Missouri School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 91.7 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 4.1 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Missouri

78.8 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Missouri. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Missouri is 87.6 percent.

#14. Yale Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 91.9 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 16.4 percent
Most common jurisdiction: New York

52.9 percent of graduates take the bar exam in New York. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in New York is 78.6 percent.

#13. University of Chicago Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 92.1 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 12.8 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Illinois

36.7 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Illinois. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Illinois is 85.4 percent.

#12. Columbia University Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 92.4 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 13.8 percent
Most common jurisdiction: New York

75.2 percent of graduates take the bar exam in New York. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in New York is 78.6 percent.

#11. Vanderbilt University Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 92.5 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 16 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Tennessee

23.7 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Tennessee. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Tennessee is 74.5 percent.

#10. Michael E. Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University

Weighted bar pass rate: 92.6 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 11.5 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Ohio

77.5 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Ohio. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Ohio is 81.1 percent.

#9. Boston University School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 92.8 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 10.9 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Massachusetts

54.9 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Massachusetts. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Massachusetts is 83.2 percent.

#8. University of Michigan Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 93.2 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 16.8 percent
Most common jurisdiction: New York

31.7 percent of graduates take the bar exam in New York. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in New York is 78.6 percent.

#7. University of Virginia School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 93.5 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 18 percent
Most common jurisdiction: New York

30.7 percent of graduates take the bar exam in New York. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in New York is 78.6 percent.

#6. Duke University School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 94.1 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 18.1 percent
Most common jurisdiction: New York

39.4 percent of graduates take the bar exam in New York. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in New York is 78.6 percent.

#5. Villanova University School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 94.8 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 14.6 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Pennsylvania

69.6 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Pennsylvania. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Pennsylvania is 80.8 percent.

#4. University of Alabama School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 95 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 8.7 percent
Most common jurisdiction: Alabama

67.1 percent of graduates take the bar exam in Alabama. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in Alabama is 88.4 percent.

#3. Harvard Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 95.3 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 18.6 percent
Most common jurisdiction: New York

49.7 percent of graduates take the bar exam in New York. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in New York is 78.6 percent.

#2. New York University School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 95.7 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 17.1 percent
Most common jurisdiction: New York

81 percent of graduates take the bar exam in New York. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in New York is 78.6 percent.

#1. University of Pennsylvania Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 98.4 percent

Weighted bar pass rate difference: 19.4 percent
Most common jurisdiction: New York

55.6 percent of graduates take the bar exam in New York. The bar pass rate for graduates from all schools taking the exam in New York is 78.6 percent.

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