TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, September 24, 2007

Law School Course Selection Has No Bearing on Bar Passage Rates

From a forthcoming article in the Journal of Legal Education (Does Law School Curriculum Affect Bar Examination Passage? An Empirical Analysis of the factors Which Were Related to Bar Examination Passage Between 2001 and 2006 at a Midwestern Law School, by Douglas Rush (St. Louis) & Hisako Matsuo):

The “conventional wisdom” among law school faculties and deans is that law students, especially law students who academically rank low in their class, should take as many of the courses whose subject matter is tested on state bar exams (i.e. contracts, torts, property, etc.) as possible in order to improve their chance of passing state bar exams…. Many law schools mandate that low-ranked law students take these courses in their second and third years of law school in the belief that doing so increases the ability of those students to pass state bar examinations.

To test this theory, Rush and Matsuo documented every student’s courseload for five different graduating classes at the St. Louis Law School, analyzing the number of bar topic courses taken against bar passage rates the first time the students sat for the exam. Their results were unequivocal: no relationship existed between law school courseloads and the passage rate of students ranked in the first, second or fourth quarters of their law school class, while only a weak relationship existed for students who ranked in the third quarter.

Freakanomics:  The Science of Passing the Bar Exam: Does First-Year Torts Really Matter?, by Melissa Lafsky

See also WSJ Law Blog:  Law-School Curricula & Passing the Bar, by Peter Lattman

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