Madison, Wisconsin has been called “77 square miles surrounded by reality.” Well, Wisconsin Law students are living the dream. Dreading the bar exam? The Badger state boasts two schools with 100% passage rates: the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University. Here’s why: Graduates of these schools receive “diploma privilege,” where graduates can be admitted without sitting for the bar. Prospective lawyers who graduated from school outside Wisconsin must still pass the bar. Of course, Wisconsin ranks just above South Dakota when it comes to having the easiest bar exam according to Anderson’s analysis. Wisconsin-Madison’s program, in particular, has teeth. Despite ranking #31 overall, the Badgers are ranked #26 by academics according to U.S. News and being listed among the top practical training programs by National Jurist symbolizes the school’s teaching excellence. What’s more, Wisconsin Law’s average debt load of $84,679 is among the lowest for top 30 schools.
That isn’t the case with Illinois, where Anderson ranks the bar at #32. Despite this, three Illinois schools – the University of Illinois, the Illinois Institute of Technology (Kent), and Loyola University – all score bar passage rates at 91% and above. And the ever-underrated duo of the University of Alabama and the University of Washington yielded top 20 bar passage rates of 96.5% and 94.4% respectively. And that’s despite both being ranked ten or more spots lower among academics and law professionals in U.S. News surveys.
The University of Missouri (Columbia) is the underrated gem of this grouping. Five years ago, Mizzou was ranked #93 overall by U.S. News. Today, they rank #64, but placed #9 in bar passage rates and #28 in placement nationwide. Those numbers should make faculty pat themselves on the back. They deserve it.
Strangely, five schools ranked #93 overall – Marquette, the University of New Hampshire, St. Louis University, Villanova, and Stetson – all made the top 50 for bar passage rate, with a nifty 89.1% being the lowest percentage in this group.
And you have to sympathize with Georgia State. Despite exceeding Yale Law’s collective bar passage rate, the school dropped 10 spots in overall rankings in 2015. And the legal community ranked them #93. Perhaps hiring managers would be well-served to give their grads a second look. Just remember: The bar is harder to pass in Georgia than in Connecticut (and Massachusetts).
Wake Up Calls for William & Mary and Brigham Young
Just because a school climbed a few spots in the overall rankings doesn’t mean their bar passage rates passed muster. Take the College of William & Mary, for example. They leaped nine spots from #33 to #24. When it comes to bar passage, their graduates don’t even crack the top 50, ranking below also-rans like Lewis & Clark. Here are some schools whose bar passage rates don’t measure up to their overall ranking:
(See following pages for full analysis and tables)