Why it's important to measure likelihood of success on the bar exam

The legal academy is particularly prone to pontificating without verifying hunches, in part, I suspect, because generally we're not trained in empirical methods. In other social sciences and the hard sciences, researchers would view as a working hypotheses the ideas that lawyers often cling to as gospel. This needs to change. 

I have written here and elsewhere about the importance of using hard data to evaluate outcomes in law school and thereafter for law students. For example, I have discussed (1) how LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs serve as useful predictors of success in law school and on the Bar exam, and (2) the often negative effect on minorities under race-based preference programs of admitting cohorts with lower metrics without disclosing the significantly elevated risk of failure. Law schools failing to consider these facts, at best negligently mislead students with low metrics as to their likelihood of success. 

Recently, the school at which I teach did an able job at compiling certain information regarding our successful and unsuccessful bar candidates.  They took a cohort of graduates who failed the bar and calculated their average score in each of 11 non-first-year bar-related classes. Of the 11 courses, those who failed the bar had the lowest average grade in the course that I teach, evidence.

A low score in this situation is useful because it's for a group who went on to fail the bar exam. The lower grades strongly suggest that the evidence teachers as a cohort are gauging well the performance of the students in their capacity to comprehend bar-related material. And for bar courses, that's good. At the risk of putting too fine a point on the issue, given that the evidence classes had the lowest grade point average relative to the other courses, that suggests the evidence professors performed particularly well at this task.

When students graduate law school but fail the bar exam, nobody is better off (although the school still gets to keep the tuition). Schools should not only use real data in deciding admissions, they should be constantly assessing students' likelihood of success and sharing that information with those paying tuition. Correlation between class grades and bar passage for bar-topic classes is one such measure.

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