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Predicting Bar Success: The Mediating Effects of Law School GPA

Document Type

Issue/Research Brief/Blog

Publication Date



bar passage correlates, incoming indicators, standardized test scores, undergraduate GPA


Most American law schools evaluate candidates for admission based on final undergraduate GPA (UGPA) and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores, due in part to accreditation requirements and institutional bar passage goals. However, a host of studies have demonstrated racial and ethnic score disparities associated with the LSAT, and prior literature suggests that admissions metrics have limited utility for predicting bar passage—especially when accounting for academic performance in law school. This study uses data from nearly 20,000 lawyers who graduated from 39 law schools to build on previous literature. We propose statistical mediation to achieve a more accurate understanding of the relationship between, and predictive value, of law school admission factors, 1L LGPA, and first-time bar passage. We find that (1) statistical mediation is preferable to moderation, revealing that (2) 1L LGPA mediates, or accounts for, 81 percent and 73 percent of the predictive effects of final UGPA and LSAT, respectively, on first-time bar passage. Therefore, using LSAT score and UGPA to predict bar passage underemphasizes the role that law schools play in preparing their students for the bar exam and a legal career.