Paul L. Caron

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Which Law Schools Overperform And Underperform On The Bar Exam?

Jeffrey Kinsler (Former Dean, Belmont) & Jeffrey Omar Usman (Belmont), Law Schools, Bar Passage, and Under and Over-Performing Expectations, 36 Quinnipiac L. Rev. 183 (2018):

The focus of this article is to build a foundation for exploring whether there is a meaningful solution to help address the bar passage problem that can be found looking to the legal education programs of law schools that are particularly successful in preparing students to pass the bar exam. To accomplish this aim, a critical and essential step is to begin to identify the law schools that are adding the most in terms of assisting their students to pass the bar exam. That first critical step is the step taken by this article. A common-sense assumption, which finds support in this article, is that students with lower UGPAs and LSAT scores are less likely to pass the bar exam than students with higher UGPAs and LSAT scores. The central question this article explores is that once a predicted bar passage rate is calculated based upon UGPA and LSAT scores, what law schools are over-performing and what law schools are under performing in terms of preparing their students to pass the bar exam?

In addressing this question, this article analyzes the calendar-year 2015 bar passage results that law schools reported to the ABA. The authors of this article concede the findings herein are a snapshot. As new reliable data becomes available, the authors of this article, with the foundation formed by the methodology and findings of this article, intend to take additional snapshots over the next few years, before synthesizing those as a critical component for making recommendations for best practices for elevating bar passage rates. In the meantime, however, for law schools that want or need to increase their bar passage rates more immediately, this article identifies institutions that are, at least at the time of this snapshot, over-performing in terms of preparing students to pass the bar exam, and thus gives schools a starting place for further exploration of why and how the over-performing schools are achieving success.

For this snapshot, this article examines the entering class of 2012 and the bar passage results of that class in 2015. In particular, this article compares 2012 input credentials-Median LSAT Scores and Median UGPAs-with 2015 first-time bar passage rates to determine which law schools over-performed in terms of preparing students to pass the bar exam and which law schools under-performed in terms of preparing students to pass the bar exam. Using linear regression models, this article assesses law schools' performance using four metrics: (1) Median LSAT and Composite Average First-Time Bar Pass Rate; (2) Median UGPA and Composite Average First-Time Bar Pass Rate; (3) Median LSAT and Composite Average First-Time Bar Pass Rate Differential; and (4) Median UGPA and Composite Average First-Time Bar Pass Rate Differential. The article also aggregates the number of standard deviations from the mean of the variance from each of these four metrics, thereby equally weighting the four, to determine an overall performance score.

Here are the twenty law schools that most overperformed on the 2015 bar exam compared to their incoming UGPA and GPA predictors:

  1. Belmont
  2. Georgia State
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Florida International
  5. Campbell
  6. Seton Hall
  7. Kansas
  8. Akron
  9. Widener-Commonwealth
  10. LSU
  11. Widener-Delaware
  12. Mississippi College
  13. Gonzaga
  14. Quinnipiac
  15. Texas A&M
  16. UMKC
  17. Cleveland State
  18. Elon
  19. Florida
  20. Stetson

Law School Rankings, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink


Instead of median LSAT scores, I'd be interested in whether students with the same LSAT had different bar passage outcomes from different schools.

Posted by: brad | Nov 4, 2018 11:01:24 AM

Belmont Law School (never heard of it) is # 1 in the list. The authors are from Belmont...

Posted by: John Saunders | Nov 1, 2018 1:42:20 PM