Paul L. Caron

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Determinants Of Success On The Bar Exam: One Law School's Experience 2010-2023

Morris Ratner (UC Law SF), Stephen Goggin (San Diego State; Google Scholar), Stefano Moscato (UC Law SF), Margaret Greer (UC Law SF) & Elizabeth McGriff (UC Law SF), Determinants of Success on the Bar Exam: One Law School's Experience 2010-2023, 73 J. Legal Educ. ___ (2024):

Journal of legal educationFrom 2010-2013, the UC Law SF first-time bar pass rate floated with the average first-time pass rate of graduates of ABA-accredited law schools in California. But suddenly, in the space of three years (2014-2016), the law school’s bar pass rate dropped to a much greater degree than changes in student metrics or statewide variations in pass rates could explain, to a historical low on the July 2016 administration of the California Bar Exam of just 51%. In response, the law school thoroughly revamped its approach to teaching academic and bar success skills. Within three years, the UC Law SF bar pass rate increased by about 30%. This Article uses statistical analysis to assess which of the law school’s academic reforms adopted after 2016 contributed to the law school’s bar pass turnaround.

Law schools’ student populations, academic programs, and teaching cultures and practices are different, such that study findings based on UC Law SF’s experience with prior iterations of the California Bar Exam may not translate to a different law school or exam. Also, the fact that UC Law SF, using the largest data set the law school ever assembled, was still unable to explain some of the variability in its own graduates’ bar outcomes highlights that statistical analyses can reveal only so much about how best to support students and help them pass a bar exam on the first attempt. Despite these and other limitations noted above, our findings may be useful to other law schools, including for example, findings about the efficacy of pervasively-implemented pre-graduation academic and bar success interventions and the benefits of law school-provided post-graduation support. More broadly, the study underscores the benefits of measuring the impact of academic program design choices to guide innovation.

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