Bar Examinations and High-Stakes Assessments


A Forked River Runs Through Law School: Toward Understanding Race, Gender, Age, and Related Gaps in Law School Performance and Bar Passage

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



law school student demographics, bar passage, incoming indicators, academic performance, bar passage barriers, health and wellness, knowledge and skills, law school diversity, LSAC National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study, race, gender, socioeconomic status


Analyses of the National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study (N = 27,478), demonstrate that law schools enlarge entering academic differences across race, age, disability, and socioeconomic origins rather than reduce them, and that academic differences in turn impact bar passage. Such differences cannot be reduced to (1) academic preparation, effort, or distractions; (2) instructional or law school-type characteristics; (3) social class; or (4) acceptance of an elitist legal ethos. Rather, results suggest that (1) women, minorities, and other atypical law students confront stigmatization throughout legal education;(2) for women (entering law school in 1991), this stigmatization is new, rejected, and consequently unassociated with law school outcomes; (3) for minorities, this stigmatization is continuous with prior socialization, making resistance difficult and consequent impact sizable; and (4) for other atypical law students, this stigmatization varies with visibility of difference, as do resistance and impact. Implications for social stigma theory and legal education are discussed.