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

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Student Participation In Externships Does Not Affect Bar Passage

Following up on my previous posts:

Scott Johns (Denver), A Statistical Exploration: Analyzing the Relationship (If Any) Between Externship Participation and Bar Exam Scores, 42 Okla. City U. L. Rev. (2017):

Relatively recently, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) claims that experiential legal education might negatively harm bar passage performance. Nevertheless, experiential learning opportunities, and, in particular, externships, are some of the most meaningful educational opportunities available to law school students. That raises an important empirical question, given the increasing emphasis of legal educators in providing more experiential learning opportunities for law students and the widespread participation of students, especially in externship programs, as one type of experiential learning opportunity. Do externship experiences have demonstrable value in positively influencing bar exam outcomes, or, as the NCBE seems to suggest, do externships negatively impact bar exam outcomes?

This article walks step-by-step through the process of evaluating whether externship participation at our law school has any statistical relationship to bar exam scores, particularly for academically-struggling law school students. Initially, using longitudinal bar passage data over a three-year period, this study observes that students participating in externships positively outperform non-participants in bar passage rates, particularly for those students that struggled academically in law school. However, based on further statistical evaluation using regression analysis, this article finds that externship participation (to include number of externships taken) has no observable statistical relationship to bar exam scores, either positive or negative, leading to the conclusion that the NCBE’s claim, at least based on our bar takers with respect to externship participation, seems to be without merit.

Johns 3

Legal Education | Permalink


Per the synopsis, this just studies one law school's outcomes. And as we all know, differing law schools have differing curves (or no curves, or even no letter grades at all), to say nothing of wildly different admissions standards. A 3.1 LGPA does not translate neatly from Denver to Stanford to Arizona Summit, nor is it much help in a vacuum determining whether or not a student can pass a bar exam (i.e. was the LSAT a 142 or a 170?).

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 30, 2018 1:25:58 PM

In order to generalize about a variable regarding bar passage (such as externship experience) one must calculate how different states' MBE cut scores affect the data and results. For instance, would the results of Scott's study be different if students from 133 or 144 cut score states were studied? We know that higher MBE cut scores have a disparate impact on students in the bottom quarter of LGPA. Hopefully, others in higher and lower MBE cut score states will duplicate Scott's study to determine whether his results transfer to these different bar exam environments.

Posted by: William Patton | Jan 30, 2018 1:40:26 PM