Freakonomics of Bar Passage Rates

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The New York Times' Freakonomics blog has an interesting post today about an upcoming study of first-time-taker bar exam results. In an upcoming Journal of Legal Education article, St Louis University professors Douglas Rush and Hisako Matsuo test the theory that students with lower GPA scores will be helped to pass the bar by a heavy diet of bar courses. Their data suggested no significant relationship exists between passage rates and law school courseload for lower and higher GPA quartile students. Generally, students in the upper two GPA quartiles passed at high rates while students in the lowest quartile passed at significantly lower rates, without regard to the number of bar courses they had taken. (Interestingly, there did seem to be some benefit to such a coursework plan for third quartile students, but there is little analysis of why that might be the case).

The article is a welcome addition of metrics to this debate, although somewhat unsatisifying in its narrow scope and analysis. You want to say "yes, but what if...," but the the "what if" data isn't there. The authors note that "more research is warranted."