Jason M. Scott, Joshua L. Jackson, Andrea M. Pals

Are Law Schools Cream-Skimming to Bolster Their Bar Exam Pass Rates? A Multilevel Regression Approach to Estimate How Attrition and Transfer Rates Affect Bar Passage

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Education

Law schools are held accountable on many fronts to achieve and maintain high bar passage rates. While the course of legal education itself, along with various interventions, is a key driver of bar exam performance, Bahadur et al. (2021) suggests that obscure institutional practices might be inflating institutional bar passage performance. Such practices could include recruitment and admission of transfer students and academic attrition. We examine this hypothesis to assess the influence of both attrition and transfer on law schools’ bar passage differential using fixed-effects and between-within models. We also utilize Poisson regression to explore the effect of geographical proximity to other law schools on transfer rates. We find that, on average, neither attrition nor transfer activity substantively affect bar passage performance, and that although geographic proximity to other schools is related to transfer rates, this relationship does not result in notable differences in bar passage.

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