Bar Examinations and Bar Passage

A Rebuttal to Kinsler's and to Anderson and Muller's Studies on the Purported Relationship between Bar Passage Rates and Attorney Discipline

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



bar performance impact, lawyer discipline


Because of the escalating cost of legal education and the recent decline in bar passage rates among ABA approved law schools, some analysts have reasonably attempted to determine the social costs of legal education. Many have attempted to place the blame on segments of the legal education marketplace. The complicated relationships among the policies of providing more access to justice, increasing minority representation in the bar, and protecting the public from shoddy law practice have recently inflamed academic debate. In the rush for assessing blame, some analysts have published empirically flawed reports that have received a great deal of media and academic attention, but have not received serious methodological analysis. The problem is that merely believing that one variable, such as LSAT scores, causes results, such as lower bar examination scores and/or increased ethical violations, is very different than empirically proving that professed cause and effect relationship. This article responds to two of these studies: one conducted by Professor Kinsler in Is Bar Exam Failure a Harbinger of Professional Discipline? and another conducted by Professors Anderson and Muller in The High Cost of Lowering the Bar. These studies concluded that there is either a causal link and/or a correlation between bar passage scores and the probability of state bar disciplinary rates. Both studies argue for more restrictive access to law schools or, alternatively, for more regulation of the legal stream leading to membership in the bar. Their data does not support their drastic remedies.