Bar Examinations and High-Stakes Assessments

Title

Marooned: An Empirical Investigation of Law School Graduates Who Fail the Bar Exam

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date

1-2010

Keywords

bar passage, failing the bar exam, employment, earnings premium, career satisfaction, personal well-being, financial stability

Abstract

"This article attempts to answer a question that legal academia has been reluctant to even ask: What happens to law school graduates who fail the bar exam? What do they do and how do their lives differ from the lives of their lawyer-classmates? Would their careers have fared any better if they had not gone to law school?

"There are probably on the order of 150,000 law school graduates in the United States who have taken but never passed a bar exam; this amounts to one in ten J.D.s and the risk falls disparately on black, Hispanic, and Asian law school graduates. The ranks only will increase if the upward trend in law school enrollment and the downward trend in bar passage continue, as they have over the last decade. Despite the vast and growing literature on lawyers, research on those who fail the bar is virtually non-existent. We know astonishingly little about the law school graduates who experience the consequences of the licensing barrier, whatever they may be."

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