The Bar Examination and the Dream Deferred: A Critical Analysis of the MBE, Social Closure, and Racial and Ethnic Stratification

44 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2018

See all articles by William Kidder

William Kidder

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA/Proyecto Derechos Civiles

Date Written: August 1, 2004

Abstract

In this article, the author applies social closure theory to help explain why more than a dozen states have recently enacted more stringent bar exam passing standards and why others are considering similar changes. While higher standards are usually advocated as a way to protect the public from lower student "quality," the author applies social closure theory and argues that changes in passing standards are a response to a perceived oversupply of lawyers, especially among solo practitioners. In the 1990s, crowding among solo practitioners reached record levels, and real earnings eroded substantially. The author then links this labor market analysis to a critical examination of the knowledge claims that justify the bar exam to the legal profession and the public at large. The article's conclusion is that the psychometric research sponsored by the National Conference of Bar Examiners consistently minimizes and obscures the disparate impact and unfairness of the bar exam for people of color.

Keywords: bar exam, passing standards, social closure, disparate impact, lawyers, oversupply, labor market, National Conference of Bar Examiners, adverse impact, diversity, legal profession

Suggested Citation

Kidder, William, The Bar Examination and the Dream Deferred: A Critical Analysis of the MBE, Social Closure, and Racial and Ethnic Stratification (August 1, 2004). Law and Social Inquiry, Vol. 29, No. 3, 2004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3291968

William Kidder (Contact Author)

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA/Proyecto Derechos Civiles ( email )

8370 Math Sciences, Box 951521
UC Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/

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