Bar exam pass rates have dropped the last five years, but a new study by The National Jurist that looks at LSAT scores shows the decline should slow. The magazine looked at pass rates and LSAT scores for the classes of 2013 and 2014, using linear regression to predict bar pass rates based on median LSAT scores.
Nationwide, the median law school bar exam pass rate has dropped from 89 percent for the class of 2009 to 81 percent for the class of 2014, the most recent data available from the American Bar Association. But, based on incoming LSAT scores for current classes, bar exam pass rates will drop less than 1 percent — to 80.25 percent — by the class of 2018.
“Law schools have taken great strides to assist students and it is having a statistically valid improvement on pass rates,” said Jack Crittenden, editor-in-chief of The National Jurist. “If rates drop further, it appears it will be due to other causes than the intellectual capacity of the current classes.”
Many critics have pointed out that LSAT scores are not designed to predict bar exam success, and that first year grades are a better indicator.
The National Jurist magazine will release a report on the best schools for bar exam preparation in its Winter 2017 issue, using similar methodology to an analysis it did in Winter 2015.
Forty law schools will be recognized in the magazine as high performers, including the University of South Dakota School of Law, University of Nebraska School of Law, and University of California-Berkeley.
The study predicts bar exam pass rates using average LSAT scores, and then identifies the schools that perform better than expected. Forty law schools performed 4 percentage points better than predicted for the classes of 2013 and 2014, the most recent data available at the time of the study.