Bar Passage Rates For First-Time Test Takers Soars!


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2019 was a banger year for legal academia. Sure, we already knew that the Multistate Bar Exam scores were up, but now we’ve got even more good news. According to new numbers released by the American Bar Association, the nationwide bar pass rate for first-time test takers was just under 80 percent in 2019 — 79.64 percent to be exact. That’s up almost 5 percentage points from the previous year, when the pass rate for first-time test takers was 74.83 percent.

Nicely done.

The ABA also released individual pass rates by school. Top honors (excluding Wisconsin law schools since the diploma privilege skews the results) go to Harvard Law School, with a first-time test taker pass rate of nearly 99 percent. Duke Law School came in second with almost 98 percent of first-time test takers passing, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School rounded out the top three with a 97 percent first-time pass rate.

But if there’s a top of the list, there’s a bottom. The list of shame (excluding Puerto Rican law schools) is a disturbingly familiar one. Taking the booby prize is none other than Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, with a dismal 36 percent passage rate for first-time test takers. The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law was just slightly ahead of them with a 38 percent first-time bar passage rate. And rounding out the bottom three was the University of San Francisco School of Law, with almost 39 percent of first-time test takers passing this year.

Congratulations to those who passed the bar exam in 2019. The good news is you passed the bar (yay!); the bad news is now you have to be a lawyer (boo!).


headshotKathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).





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