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Want to Pass the Bar? Go to Alabama or Wisconsin, Not Yale

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 10, 2016 2:57 PM

Yale might be ranked as the number one law school in America (you're trash, Harvard), but when it comes to passing the bar on the first try, graduates of the much less celebrated law schools far outrank Yale, Harvard, Stanford and many other prestigious law schools.

That's right, if you want to pass the bar, go to law school at the University of Alabama or Wisconsin, not the Ivy League. Roll tide, cheeseheads.

SCOTUS Clerk? Nah, I'd Rather Work

Sure, Harvard and Yale grads might dominate the Supreme Court -- they made up almost half of the SCOTUS clerks in 2014, and Ruther Bader Ginsburg is the only current Supreme Court Justice who didn't graduate from Harvard or Yale. But when it comes to passing the bar, the Ivies simply can't keep up.

A new ranking of law schools by first time bar passage rate, put together by Start Class, shows just how far behind the Ivy League is. Harvard came in fifth, with a 96.4 percent pass rate. That put it behind much less famous law schools like the University of South Dakota Law School. Yale had a sad eighth place showing, with a pass rate of 96.2 percent, two spots behind 'Bama.

Who Does Best on the Bar

Here's the top ten in their entirety:

1. University of Wisconsin Law School, 100 percent
2. Marquette University Law School, 100 percent
3. University of South Dakota Law School, 97.8 percent
4. Baylor Law School, 97 percent
5. Harvard Law School, 96.4 percent
6. University of Alabama School of Law, 96.4 percent
7. Columbia University Law School, 96.3 percent
8. Yale Law School, 96.2 percent
9. New York University School of Law, 96.2 percent
10. University of Pennsylvania Law School, 95.6 percent

Now, don't start burning your acceptance letters from Harvard and Yale just yet.

We have a few concerns about Start Class's list. You'll notice the two Wisconsin law schools, the only law schools in that state, have a 100 percent "pass" rate.

But Wisconsin law grads don't really pass the bar. They don't take it. Wisconsin is the only state with "diploma privilege," allowing all in-state grads to apply to the bar without having to take the state bar exam.

Our second gripe: not all bar exams are made equal. (You'll notice there are no California schools on the list, possibly because of the Golden State's brutal bar exam.) Passing the bar in New York is not exactly as easy as passing it in South Dakota. And when that difference is taken in to account, some of the top schools perform much better.

But with those two complaints taken in to account, the lesson still remains: if you want to go to the Supreme Court, try Harvard or Yale. If you want to sit for the just bar once -- or not at all -- Alabama, South Dakota, and Wisconsin might be better bets.

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