Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), LSAT Scores and Eventual Bar Passage Rates:
Are LSAT scores related to eventual bar-passage rates or just to first-time rates? Most people who raise this question acknowledge that there are serious costs to retaking the bar exam--so first-time rates matter. Still, it is valid to ask whether LSAT scores correlate with eventual bar passage: eventual passage rates matter too.
The first, and most important, response to this question is that each law school knows (or can readily determine) the answer for its own graduates. Bar examiners used to hoard bar passage information in some states, but most now share it readily. My law school knows which of its graduates pass the bar, not only the first time but in subsequent attempts. We also, of course, have a wealth of other data about those students. It's not hard to create both simple correlations and more complex regression analyses identifying factors that predict eventual bar passage or failure. ... To act responsibly toward their students, law schools should make these analyses. What variables correlate with eventual bar passage at your school?
Let's say, though, that your school can't obtain the data for these analyses. Or maybe the credentials of your current students are quite different from those who have already graduated and taken the bar. Is there any existing research that suggests a correlation between LSAT scores and eventual bar passage?
Sure. The LST report includes some of the relevant research; Robert Anderson and David Frakt cite other sources. The table below summarizes one more dataset that I find illuminating. The first and third columns in the table come from LSAC's landmark study on bar passage. ... The table helps visualize the association between LSAT scores and eventual bar passage rates. (The middle column offers a rough translation between the LSAT scores used before 1992 and those used today.)
Three points/caveats about this table.
First, the table rather clearly shows that higher LSAT scores predict higher eventual bar passage rates--while lower scores are associated with more risk of failure. ...
The data offered above, along with data already publicized, support an association between LSAT scores and bar passage--whether one examines first-time bar passage or eventual passage. Association, of course, is not causation. The relationship suggests that LSAT scores can predict an applicant's eventual success in passing the bar. The score doesn't cause bar passage or failure, any more than an LSAT score causes a student to get particular law school grades. Predictors, however, can offer useful insights when making decisions.