Patterico's Pontifications


Early Morning Hillary Rodham Clinton Factoid

Filed under: General — WLS @ 1:38 am

[Posted by WLS]

Supposedly this isn’t “new news” since she has apparently included it as an “aside” in her autobiography, but in Carl Bernstein’s new book on HRC — “A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton” — he speculates that HRC ultimately decided to move to Arkansas and marry Bill Clinton after graduating from Yale because she passed the Arkansas Bar exam, but ……


For you non-lawyers in the blogosphere, the D.C. bar exam is widely regarded as about the easiest exam in the country to pass.

Bernstein says HRC was so embarrassed about her failure that she hid it from close friends for over 30 years.

The Washington Post has a story on Bernstein’s book and a another biography written by two long-time investigative reporters for the NYT.


UPDATE BY PATTERICO: Personally, I don’t see failing a bar exam as a big deal, absent some specific reason it’s relevant. But maybe that’s just me. (Despite libelous claims by Joseph Mailander to the contrary, I passed it on the first try, so it’s nothing personal. But if someone else failed, hey — it happens.)

44 Responses to “Early Morning Hillary Rodham Clinton Factoid”

  1. Wait for the classic Clinton spin: Bush never passed the DC bar! – nor the Texas bar – nor the Arkansas bar.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  2. How easy IS the DC Bar?

    How many law books would I havet to read before I, a non Law Student, could pass it?

    Scott Jacobs (90eabe)

  3. According to this link, relative to many state bars, the DC bar was not that easy to pass in 2001 and 2002.


    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  4. From personal experience, I find the phrase “easy bar exam” a bit difficult to accept.

    I also find the idea that anyone would just happen to take the Arkansas bar exam and pass, and thereby decide to move to Arkansas, also difficult to accept. People almost always decide to move somewhere and then undertake the laborious task of passing the bar there, not the other way around.

    Phil (427875)

  5. Here’s the bit from her autobiography Living History (at least according to Google Answers):

    “”But there it is on page 64 of Hillary’s own memoir, “Living
    History”: her confession that she flunked the D.C. bar exam:
    “I was lonely and missed Bill more than I could stand. I had taken
    both the Arkansas and the Washington, D.C., bar exams during the
    summer, but my heart was pulling me toward Arkansas. When I learned
    that I had passed in Arkansas but failed in D.C., I thought that maybe
    my test scores were telling me something.””

    Apparently, JFK failed the New York bar twice.

    Crust (399898)

  6. Perfect Sense:

    The DC bar exam pass rate doesn’t mean much today. Very few people take the test. Almost everyone at a DC firm takes another state’s bar exam and uses the results to ‘waive’ into DC. Lots of federal gov’t lawyers who are based in DC never take the DC bar exam because they don’t have to be DC lawyers. In fact, I’ve been here for more than a decade and I have never heard of someone taking it. So I’m not sure who is in the small pool of people who take it today.

    But it does seem completely contrary to Hillary Clinton’s nature to fail a bar exam. I bet that’s the only test she ever failed from kindergarten up.

    tom (612cba)

  7. Patterico: “For you non-lawyers in the blogosphere, the D.C. bar exam is widely regarded as about the easiest exam in the country to pass.”

    The easiest?

    In 2005, only California and Puerto Rico had lower pass rates on their state bar exam than DC…

    Perhaps only unusually stupid people take the DC exam?

    m.croche (5b14a3)

  8. For Perfect Sense,

    Analyzing the relative difficulty of a bar exam (an admittedly subjective task) requires more than just reviewing the passage rates for different states. Indeed the special circumstances for DC plays a significant role in its lower passage rates.

    Currently, DC is one of the easiest states to waive into, that is, to rely on your passage of another state’s exam to gain admittance into the DC Bar. As a result, students who can will typically take an out-of-state exam and waive in, essentially getting two states for the effort of one exam. As a result, a large number of people taking the DC Bar exam are either from DC’s non-accredited law school (and thus ineligible for an out-of-state exam) or failed to make a qualifying score on an out-of-state exam (and thus ineligible to waive in). Thus, the DC Bar exam taking are generally a lower caliber of student to begin with and therefore more prone to failing the exam. Accordingly, the DC BAR exam’s failure rate is less the result of the test being harder and is instead largely due to the generally lower quality of test taker.

    Swamp Fox (a4e487)

  9. Croche,

    I didn’t write the post. Your hints are at the top (where it says [“Posted by WLS]”) and the bottom (where it is signed “– WLS”).

    I never heard anything about the ease of the D.C. exam. But I seem to recall that you could simply waive in by paying a fee and showing you had passed another bar, meaning you could take any state’s bar and get licensed in D.C. (A colleague encouraged me to do this after I passed the California bar, but I didn’t think I’d ever practice in D.C.) Perhaps that’s what WLS was thinking of?

    Patterico (f48c5b)

  10. How strange that these folks would put out anti-Hillary books. I thought all the Dems wanted the Clintons back.

    Dick Morris is now putting together an anti-Hillary documentary with some people. Should be a very hot campaign season, and I’m not talking about global warming!

    Patricia (824fa1)

  11. I have heard that the DC bar exam is among the easiest, but don’t know if they allow graduates of non-accredited schools to sit for the bar, a factor that makes some states’ passage rates (e.g., California’s) deceptively low. Waiving into DC is a good idea if you plan to move anywhere, since it can get you reciprocity that CA does not. I’m not sure it’s mathematically possible to pass the bar exam in Arkansas today without scoring high enough on the MBE to waive in to DC, but I don’t know that that was the case back in Hillary’s day.

    Xrlq (f18ae2)

  12. I thought everyone from Yale Law School flunked the bar.

    Attila (Pillage Idiot) (68fd1f)

  13. Someone’s a Harvard man…

    Scott Jacobs (90eabe)

  14. All I know is that back when I was concerned about the matter (early 80s) the people who flunked the Florida exam always decided to go to New York on the confident expectation they would pass the bar exam there. Meanwhile, New Yorkers who flunked the bar exam in New York liked to come to Florida in the confident expectation that they could pass the bar exam in Florida….
    So reputation is a fickle thing.
    Me, I took the bar exam (in Florida) once, and passed it, and damned if I put myself through that wringer again.

    kishnevi (03a14b)

  15. Not a fan of Hilary Clinton’s, but as an attorney who has had close friends fail a bar exam I can tell you that there are a lot of factors that go into passing the bar exam. This is not a story IMO and one failure of a bar exam would not dictate what I thought about a person. The Bar Exam tests your ability to take the Bar Exam.

    Eric Couslon (03ffb6)

  16. DC’s was one of the harder bars to pass around the time HRC would have taken it. It was three days, all essay, and all on DC law. There was also an emphasis then on recent decisions. That emphasis gave a big advantage to those who had enrolled in local bar review courses given by practitioners (who made it their business to watch the decisions of the DC Court of Appeals). Passing rates in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, before the Multistate Exam, were usually in the low 50’s.

    I’m no fan of Hillary’s, I just want to let you know that the DC Bar exam she probably took was nothing like the one current law students face.

    PGNelson (0fbc93)

  17. Seriously, Scott Jacobs, when I was in law school (wherever that was – no comment) in the early 80s, Yale had a fail rate on the bar exam of roughly 50%. And they were almost proud of it, seeing it as a selling point. You know, we’re not one of those “local” law schools that actually teach you law. So Bill and Hill learned how to think, but having watched them during 8 years in the White House, I can say they really didn’t learn any law at Yale.

    Attila (Pillage Idiot) (68fd1f)

  18. A couple points of clarification from the author of this note:

    First, my intent was at sarcastic, mocking humor — not as a judgment on her intelligence or legal acumen.

    Second, I went to law school in Virginia in the 1980s, so I’m very familiar with D.C. bar exam and the reasons people in my era took it or didn’t take it. The reason I recall that it was deemed among the easist in the 1980s was because there was no essay exam then, and the “passing” score on the Multistate portion (200 multiple choice questions administered in a single day) was quite low compared to other states — as I recall it was in the 115 range, but I could be mistaken. The Virginia exam was pretty easy as well — a pass rate in the high 80s — so not too many Virginia law school grads felt the need to go take the DC exam when they could waive in. I went to California — stupid me.

    Third, I suspected what PGNelson reports in #16 to be true — the DC bar exam in the pre-Multistate days was a very different exam than the one that is taken now.

    So, don’t read this note for anything more than it was intended. Just a swipe at a Yalie “climber” who had a meltdown when she failed at something — probably for the first time.

    WLS (077d0d)

  19. Yale Law School is famous for teaching “concepts” rather than “nuts and bolts,” and for deliberately positioning itself at the opposite end of the spectrum from some law schools (especially state schools and schools without much national prestige) that “teach to the test” (i.e., actually try to prepare their graduates to pass a particular state’s bar exam). Conventional wisdom, in fact, is that the better your law school’s national reputation, the more desperately you need to take — and pay attention during — a bar review course (e.g., BAR/BRI) geared to the specific state’s bar exam you’re about to take.

    If she took both exams in the same summer after her spring graduation from Yale, she presumably could only take a bar review course for one. My guess (and it’s nothing more than a guess) is that the Arkansas bar was even more state-law specific than the D.C. bar, and that she therefore took a review course for Arkansas and not for D.C.

    Per the title of this post, this is at best a factoid (or a fact of little practical significance). None of my objections to a Hillary presidency are based on her lack of native intelligence or lack of legal acumen (or whatever else may arguably be demonstrated by passing a bar exam).

    I’m vaguely curious to know whether the DC Bar required a certain number of years of licensure and practice in another state before it would give automatic reciprocity back then. If so, that — plus a contemplation that she might not be sticking around in Arkansas for the required number of years — might explain why she’d have taken both.

    When I was a partner in the Texas office of a New York-based mega-firm back in the late 1980s, a partner of mine who was licensed (like me) only in Texas used the DC Bar’s lenient reciprocity rules to get licensed in DC (where our firm had an office). He then turned around a year later and used the DC Bar’s reciprocity with New York (which at least then had no direct reciprocity with Texas) to get licensed there — not because he ever intended to practice in New York, but just to gently tweak the noses of our New York partners (who tended to view their licensure in the New York Bar as akin to their residency in New York City, i.e., the way a citizen of Rome viewed his citizenship two millenia ago).

    Beldar (bcf322)

  20. (PS: By contrast, I was very critical of John Kerry’s law school performance and short, badly-overhyped career as a practicing lawyer because he was portraying himself as a “tough on crime” former prosecutor during his presidential campaign. And I think Joe Biden’s law school troubles genuinely do raise issues about his judgment and character (as well about his native intelligence; I do grant that he has ample cunning and glibness, however).

    Beldar (bcf322)

  21. Beldar,

    Everything you say may be true but it’s not good to flunk a bar exam, nor does it say much for Senator Clinton’s judgment that she thought she could prepare for and pass two bar exams (from very different jurisdictions) in one summer.

    However, I sympathize with Clinton’s desire to keep this information out of the public domain. I wouldn’t want people to know that I flunked a bar exam, either.

    DRJ (2d5e62)

  22. Beldar–having attended a law school which had a reputation for being very state specific, and which did have the best passing rate in the state bar exam during that period (unfortunately, it’s slipped some in the intervening years), I still found it absolutely necessary to take the bar review course. I knew nothing of state constitutional law or adminstrative law (although I could have taken them as electives, if I had chosen to) when I got my JD. I learned it all from BARBRI. And I wasn’t the sort who prepped mightily for LSATs etc. I was probably the only one in my college class who didn’t pay money to Kaplan to get ready for the LSAT or MCAT. But the bar exam was entirely different, and I knew that from day one of law school.

    But I found it hard enough to deal with one bar exam in one summer–I would have never thought of taking more than one. Rodhamite arrogance?

    Bear in mind one possibility: I have a cousin who graduated from Columbia Law School at roughly the same time as Billary. He failed the bar exam in his home state because (or so he claimed) of bad handwriting.

    kishnevi (98dd82)

  23. […] years of Hillary. Some may call it a success Hillary survived the eight years of Bill at all.  News?  What […]

    The Heretik : Overdetermined (694660)

  24. However, I sympathize with Clinton’s desire to keep this information out of the public domain. I wouldn’t want people to know that I flunked a bar exam, either.

    But that’s not the case at all, DRJ. She volunteered the information in her book.

    Do you think maybe she had Vince Foster killed because he was threatening to go public with her DC bar exam failure?

    The Liberal Avenger (b8c7e2)

  25. Well, I took the bar exam (once) in the 70’s. And, like others have commented, the Harvard & Yale types had more trouble. It means absolutely nothing.

    Charles Evans Hughes took the bar 4 times. There are Supreme Court Judges (state & US) that have had to sit for the bar more than once. My brother is as good a lawyer as any and has a sterling reputation — he took the bar twice. Ditto my Dad.

    As my Dad used to say, there is the law and there is lawyering. The latter is the most important and it is not tested.

    I am no fan of Hillary, but this is a non-issue.

    DaSarge (1d2f46)

  26. LA #24,

    Hillary Clinton first volunteered that she flunked the DC bar exam in a book published 30 years after the fact. She undoubtedly knew someone (the media? the GOP?) was aware of her sad secret so she decided to publish it herself. Self-publishing bad news in a positive way – before your adversaries do it – is a classic trial tactic that may have fooled you but it doesn’t fool litigators.

    DRJ (2d5e62)

  27. As it turns out I took the DC bar exactly one year ahead of HC and it was, without a doubt, the worst three days of my life. 60 essay questions and none easy. I have often wondered how I managed to pass and the pass rate was under 50%. I later took the Virginia bar and it was a cakewalk by comparison. Don’t fool yourself, failing the DC bar was easy to do in that era. Anyone trying to compare apples to oranges is self deluded. The early 70’s DC bar was a bitch.

    jerry kerr (a4488a)

  28. Do you think maybe she had Vince Foster killed because he was threatening to go public with her DC bar exam failure?

    Nah, I think she found out he was banging her girlfriend.

    Pablo (08e1e8)

  29. Hillary would never hire out a killing. She’d do the job herself. With her bare hands teeth.

    nk (835ea1)

  30. Hillary has had some very questionible freinds and defended members of the radical BLACK PANTHERS we dont need her in the whitehouse she would be far worse then bill ever was

    krazy kagu (1f0194)

  31. Very interesting article. I am still not clear which state or states are easy to pass the bar which is why I stumbled into this article.

    Please if you have any idea, then let me know.

    monica (b0117d)

  32. m. croche:

    51% for Dc in 2005, I think that those numbers are spiked with a lot of Feb, second time test takers. You know how it is with statistics.

    DaSarge, it may be a non issue, but if the left likes to lie about W’s flight school tests (25% in depth perception, 88th percentile overall, but somehow googling it only brings up the 25th part), then why can’t we have fun with this person?

    joeindc44 (0a271f)

  33. The bar exam is, like the LSAT, the SAT, and all the other ones, a basic IQ test. Of course Hillary isn’t really that bright. Really smart people pass bar exams like athletes dunking basketballs. To them, it ain’t no thing. But for dumb strivers like Hillary, bar exams pose real challenges.. especially when they expose the “smartest chick” political myth which will be used to justify prez Hillary’s central planning and political control.. The truth is out there now: She’s dumb.

    lskdfj (a44bc4)

  34. the pass rate of the bar exam in a state has nothing to do if it’s easy or not. you ever thought that really educated people breeze through a test faster than someone went to a worse school? louisiana has the hardest test and the bar pass rate is 80% (minus there one substandard school whose rate is 35%). but hrc went to yale, i mean come on, its yale. that should at least given her some extra credit.

    john (c8dad5)

  35. who cares where you take bar??!!
    ITS ALL ABOUT PASSING WHERE YOU WANNA PRACTICE AND GET PAID!! the rest is ego…forget test scores and law schools, that for the upper classes, who should be eaten anyways…

    jojo (97089a)

  36. I cant believe that so called “intelligent” human beings still talk about the parties like there is any real difference between the two…dumb asses…

    mike (97089a)

  37. This woman, described by Bill Clinton as the most remarkable of their generation (which is CRAP on the face of it), and considering her blinding ambition which (trust me) existed just as much then as it does now – she couldn’t afford to fail at anything EVER.

    Let’s debunk this once and for all. She is NOT the smartest woman in America. She is not even in the top 20% of smartest women. What she is is a shrill, driven, vicious woman with the complete lack of character exemplified by her husband. They deserve each other but what did WE ever do to deserve THEM?

    And no, I don’t like either of them! I consider them pure evil and possibly fatal for our Republic.

    Gayle Miller (187b6e)

  38. 18-20 years I was told by an Arkansas attorney that no one had to pass the bar in Arkansas to practice law – but the law had just been passed that beginning the next year or two they would be required to pass the bar. I assume Hillary graduated before that time. Is there proof she took a bar exam in Arkansas?

    Joan (123cfd)

  39. DC is very easy, but has a low pass rate because of its “lowest common denominator” approach to qualifications. The intent is to be open to lawyers who meet the qualifications of any of the 50 States, and candidate attorneys from all over the country of quite marginal qualifications are in the pass rate pool.

    akant (3c5ca4)

  40. The bar exam is not an IQ test, nor is it a standardized test like the LSAT or the SAT – it’s the opposite. You have to learn the actual laws of a state in a way that you’ve never been required to in law school and you never will be required to again as a lawyer.

    Further, taking two bar exams is really really hard, especially when the laws of the two states do not overlap a lot. (For instance, taking NY and MA is relatively less hard, because the two states have a lot of overlapping rules, but taking NY and TN might be more difficult.) If you take two bars, you essentially have to learn three sets of rules: majority of state rules (for the multi-state), state 1 rules, and state 2 rules. And these rules can be as specific as “how many days notice do you have to give the other side before filing a notice motion.” And if you went to a school like Yale that teaches you analytic skills rather than the specific rules of practicing in a given state, it’s even harder because you only have about two months to learn it all.

    In other words, taking two bars is very hard. Unless the two states overlap a lot, in many cases you’re essentially courting failure.

    PS: DC was a three day exam that was all essay questions? Holy shit! (Most states are 2 days with a portion of multiple choice questions – which are usually easier because the answer is on the page, whereas with essay questions you have to remember everything on your own.)

    harvardlaw (d8cd30)

  41. harvardlaw,

    Your comment makes good points but it also illustrates why Hillary was foolish to attempt both at the same time.

    DRJ (517d26)

  42. You can’t judge how hard a bar exam is by statistics of pass rates alone. California has a low pass rate, but that’s because they let anyone from any law school, including unaccredited ones, take the test. That naturally lowers the pass rate cause graduates from crappy schools flunk more. Other states only let graduates of accredited schools take the test.

    Hillary went to Yale. I’m guessing graduates of Yale Law School pass the bar at a 90+ percent rate.

    UofM (f9af2e)

  43. As one who has passed two bar exams the first try on each (in Nevada, and then in California four years later), I’ll tell why Mrs. Clinton flunked the D.C. bar exam: she didn’t prepare. Period. The bar examination is the great level playing field that Mrs. Clinton has been whining about not getting in her campaign, and her failure ro pass is a telling litmus indeed regarding her intellectual abilities – or the lack thereof – as well as a window into her so-called wonky proficiency. Mrs. Clinton laziness about doing her homework is no better demonstrated than her now admitted failure to have even read the N.I.E. ( a measly ninety pages) before casting her infamous vote for Mr. Bush’s most ill-advised war in Iraq. So it’s no wonder that she couldn’t even pass the bar. Even Kathleen Sullivan, the former dean of Stanford Law School and a nationally recognized authority on constitutional law, flunked the California bar the first time. At least Ms. Sullivan, unlike Mrs. Clinton, had the class and honesty to admit that she would “have to prepare better” for the bar exam. All of this begs the question: who would you want as your lawyer handling the important legal matters of your life, a lawyer who can prepare for and pass the bar or one who can’t? And who would you want as your president? As for the Klinton Kool-Aid Drinkers who swallow whole any canard that Bill or Hill can come with to excuse their behavior, be careful what you wish for.

    pettyfogger (a41671)

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