A Statistical Exploration: Analyzing the Relationship (If Any) between Externship Participation and Bar Exam Scores
Law Review Article
bar passage correlates, law school curriculum, experiential learning, student engagement
Relatively recently, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) claims that experiential legal education might negatively harm bar passage performance. Nevertheless, experiential learning opportunities, and, in particular, externships, are some of the most meaningful educational opportunities available to law school students. That raises an important empirical question, given the increasing emphasis of legal educators in providing more experiential learning opportunities for law students and the widespread participation of students, especially in externship programs, as one type of experiential learning opportunity. Do externship experiences have demonstrable value in positively influencing bar exam outcomes, or, as the NCBE seems to suggest, do externships negatively impact bar exam outcomes? This article walks step-by-step through the process of evaluating whether externship participation at our law school has any statistical relationship to bar exam scores, particularly for academically-struggling law school students. Initially, using longitudinal bar passage data over a three-year period, this study observes that students participating in externships positively outperform non-participants in bar passage rates, particularly for those students that struggled academically in law school. However, based on further statistical evaluation using regression analysis, this article finds that externship participation (to include number of externships taken) has no observable statistical relationship to bar exam scores, either positive or negative, leading to the conclusion that the NCBE’s claim, at least based on our bar takers with respect to externship participation, seems to be without merit.