The Bigger Picture: Is There a Connection Between LSAT Scores and Bar Passage Rates?

Here at Advise-In our focus is, naturally, on the LSAT and securing our clients’ best possible law school admissions and merit-based financial aid, but we also feel it is vital to emphasize the bigger picture for those considering law school. There are plenty of programs that focus exclusively on the test itself, or specifically, on a brief course of “test prep” for the big day. However, our model here is different: yes, the LSAT is important, however it is only one of the factors to consider when approaching a legal education. As I’ve stated repeatedly, any six-figure investment should involve responsible data gathering and careful tactical thinking about your future.

For example, there has been plenty of debate in recent years – with even the President wading into the discussion recently – about the value of the current framework of U.S. law schools: the prevailing 3-year structure, the decision as to which classes should be mandatory, the amount of practical training available as opposed to traditional classes, and other things. Only occasionally discussed are the rates at which law school graduates pass state bar exams, and often only in the context of whether graduates gain employment that requires bar admission (which is not quite the same thing).

Paul Caron at the TaxProf blog recently called attention to a regression analysis of bar exam passage rates as they relate to an exam taker’s undergraduate GPA, law school GPA, and LSAT score. The full paper, by Nicholas L. Georgakopoulos of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, is available here. The paper suggested that law school grades were a more valuable predictor than LSAT score or undergraduate GPA on bar passage rates. Naturally several commentators, as well as the study’s author, latched onto this idea as proof that the current law school framework does have value.

As I counsel my clients, or anyone who is considering the legal profession as a career, comprehending data in context is vitally important, especially if you intend to use it in making decisions about your own future. Here, the study was based on passage rates of two exam sittings of the Indiana state bar exam, using students from a single law school. The abstract put it more circumspectly: “Possible interpretations favor legal education over innate skill and the training in legal analysis over memorization.” Without more comprehensive studies, I would instead consider the figures for the schools you are considering attending, if your goal is in fact to take one or more bar exams.

Every law school should (and most do) keep track of bar passage rates for their graduates – although plenty have argued that the connection between law school and bar passage is “meaningless.” It is certainly not meaningless, but there are a number of variables that can affect bar passage.  The rest is just noise.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on October 4, 2013.

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