Bar Examinations and Bar Passage

The Art and Science of Academic Support

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



academic success programs, bar passage correlates, law school curriculum


In this article, we seek to invigorate discussion of academic support and put it on firmer ground. We have reviewed the existing literature, examined programs at a variety of schools, and conducted an exhaustive empirical analysis of the academic effects of academic support at UCLA. We have reached several conclusions based on this work:

• The existing literature evaluating academic support in law schools suffers from so many methodological flaws that it offers no convincing evidence of either success or failure.

• Our analysis of seven distinct academic support initiatives at UCLA shows that support can substantially and demonstrably improve both short-term and long-term academic performance, but the effects vary markedly across UCLA's programs.

• The variation in academic effectiveness across UCLA's programs follows distinct patterns that yield definite guidance on the pedagogy of academic support.

• We found some evidence that academic support programs can have valuable benefits apart from their impact on grades.

After reviewing the theory and evaluation of academic support programs generally, our discussion takes the form of a series of case studies. We discuss the premises and goals underlying UCLA's support efforts, and then use more or less systematic methods for testing the validity of those premises and goals. Nearly all of our findings are bounded by the experience of a single institution; we try to state our conclusions broadly while avoiding the sins of overgeneralization.