A Study of the Relationship between Law School Coursework and Bar Exam Outcomes

68 Journal of Legal Education (2019, Forthcoming)

Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper

25 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2019

See all articles by Robert R. Kuehn

Robert R. Kuehn

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

David R. Moss

Wayne State University Law School

Date Written: September 2, 2019

Abstract

The recent decline in bar exam passage rates has triggered speculation that the decline is being driven by law students taking more experiential courses and fewer bar-subject courses. These concerns arose in the absence of any empirical study linking certain coursework to bar exam failure.

This article addresses speculation about the relationship between law school coursework and bar exam outcomes. It reports the results of a large-scale study of the courses of over 3800 graduates from two law schools and the relationship between their experiential and bar-subject coursework and bar exam outcomes over a ten-year period. At both schools, the number of experiential courses or credits taken by a student did not correlate with bar passage, positively or negatively. Enrollment in bar courses correlated positively with passage, but the correlation was modest and significant only for students whose class rank placed them at heightened risk of bar failure. Even for those students, the marginal benefit of additional bar-related courses was not statistically significant once the student had taken approximately the average number of bar courses at that school. The study results indicate that efforts to improve bar passage rates by capping experiential credits are not supported by empirical evidence and that requiring bar-subject courses for students at comparable law schools would appear justified, if at all, only when targeted at students whose class rank places them at enhanced risk of bar exam failure.

Keywords: legal education, law school, bar exam, clinical legal education, experiential education, law clinic, externship

JEL Classification: K00, I23

Suggested Citation

Kuehn, Robert R. and Moss, David R., A Study of the Relationship between Law School Coursework and Bar Exam Outcomes (September 2, 2019). 68 Journal of Legal Education (2019, Forthcoming); Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3446111

Robert R. Kuehn (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States
314-935-5706 (Phone)
314-935-5356 (Fax)

David R. Moss

Wayne State University Law School ( email )

Detroit, MI 48202
United States
313-577-3970 (Phone)
313-577-9379 (Fax)

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