Measuring Law Student Success from Admissions Through Bar Passage: More Data the Bench, Bar and Academy Need to Know
bar passage correlates, LSAT score, predictive models, law school admissions, bar passage, experiential learning, pro bono work, doctrinal courses
Using institutional data from a total of 2,440 students who matriculated between Fall 2009 and Fall 2015 from two law schools, this study examines relationships between: 1. LSAT scores, Undergraduate Grade Point Averages [UGPA), the combination of LSAT and UGPA, and student performance in doctrinal courses and experiential courses, overall first year grades and final law school GPAs; 2. LSAT scores, course performance, final and first year GPAs, and first-time bar passage; and 3. LSAT scores and pro bono work performed in law school. Results indicate LSAT scores predict more weakly for experiential than doctrinal course performance and suggest that, at some schools, data may not support the manner and extent to which many schools rely on LSAT scores as predictors of students’ law school academic performance or bar passage. While LSAT scores had some relationship to bar passage at both schools studied, that relationship was minimal once we looked at the scores in conjunction with law school doctrinal course grades. Further, at the schools studied, the combination of LSAT score, first-year and upper-level doctrinal course performance only accounts for about 30% of variance in bar passage for both schools, leaving 70% of variance in bar passage unknown. The study results confirm prior research that schools’ reliance on numerical LSAT scores in admissions and scholarship decisions should be examined on a school-by-school basis. The results provide additional evidence questioning the value given to LSAT scores in US News rankings calculations. Finally, the results suggest that to the extent schools seek more information about bar passage, they must look beyond LSAT scores and law school doctrinal course grades and engage in longitudinal studies of other potential factors both during law school and the bar study period such as students’ study methods, motivation, self-confidence, financial-/family-/work-related obligations.