Paul L. Caron

Thursday, December 22, 2016

California Law School Bar Pass Rates Recalculated For New York: Stanford, UCB, USC > NYU; UCI, UCLA > Columbia; Chapman, Loyola, McGeorge, Pepperdine, Santa Clara, UCD, USD > Fordham

Continuing my coverage of the July 2016 California bar exam (links below):  Robert Anderson (Pepperdine), California Law School Bar Passage Rates Recalculated for the New York Bar:

I use the abysmal bar results from the July 2016 bar exam to illustrate the difference between California and another large state, New York. New York has a required passing score that is about average across the 50 states, whereas California has an unusually high required passing score. The table below shows just how different the results for California law schools would have been if California used the same passing score as New York. ...

This chart compares Rob's results for the California law schools' projected New York bar pass rates with the New York law schools' actual New York bar pass rates:


If California used the same passing score as New York, even in this very difficult bar year most California schools would have had passage rates above 80%, and all of them would be well within striking distance of the ABA's proposed 75% passage rate in two years. UC Hastings, which had an extremely difficult 51% pass rate this year, would have had an 80% pass rate in New York. Thomas Jefferson, which had a 31% pass rate in California would have had a 61% pass rate in New York. Whittier, which had a 22% pass rate in California would have had a 51% pass rate in New York.

Update:  I have updated the post with Rob's corrected data.

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Tom N.


Posted by: Kneave Riggall | Dec 23, 2016 1:13:22 PM

Bill, the California bar exam certainly is more difficult than New York (or especially Missouri). Moreover, it's common for very good out-of-state schools to underperform on the California bar exam. However, it's tricky to draw inferences from that because it is possible that students who choose to move to California differ from students who stay in the state of their law schools (or move to other states). It's a bit of a mystery I hope to unravel at some point, but I am far from an answer that persuades me.

Posted by: Rob Anderson | Dec 23, 2016 11:08:10 AM

The New York and California environment would seem to be of similar complexity. Perhaps California is using the bar exam to limit access?

Posted by: Tom N. | Dec 22, 2016 5:34:28 PM

Prof. Anderson: Dozens of non-CA ABA law schools would fail the proposed 75% standard if located in CA. Consider Wash. U. St. Louis, a top-20 ranked school:
In my study of 299 Wash. U students who took the CA bar the mean first time passage rate was 66%. That 66% compares with their mean Missouri passage rate of more than 94%. That comparative data shows the difference in difficulty of the CA and Missouri bar exams. But there is more. Wash. U's CA bar passage from 2011 to 2015 was always lower than the CA ABA law school median. Further, the Wash. U. CA bar passage rate has been falling in California for the last several years: 2011: 74%; 2012: 70%; 2013: 68%; 2014: 61%; and 2015: 39%. Many on this blog who blame law professors for lowering students' LSAT/GPA statistics blame such falling passage rates on admissions fraud. But that theory does not explain Wash. U's dive on the CA exam. From 2011 to 2015 Wash. U's entering LSAT/GPA statistics have held relatively constant: 2011: LSAT 169/168/162 and GPA 3.80/3.66/3.32; and in 2015: LSAT 168/167/161 and GPA 3.80/3.67/3.18. The continuing reduction in Wash U. CA bar results is not explained by the minimal changes in admitted students' statistics. T

Posted by: Bill Patton | Dec 22, 2016 3:46:11 PM

Clear guidance on what schools to avoid if you want to gain admission to practice law in California vs. New York. Very helpful to prospective students. Awesome.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 22, 2016 2:16:09 PM

Maybe California schools should pay their students to take the Nevada bar exam to increase their pass rates.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 22, 2016 11:39:42 AM