Examining the Bar Exam: An Empirical Analysis of Racial Bias in the Uniform Bar Examination
53 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2022 Last revised: 8 Sep 2022
Date Written: January 26, 2022
The legal profession is one of the least diverse in the United States. Given continuing issues of racism in our society, the central position the justice system occupies in our society, and the vital role lawyers play in that system, it is incumbent upon those in the profession to identify and remedy the causes of this lack of diversity. This Article seeks to understand how the bar examination, the final hurdle to entry into the profession, contributes to this lack of diversity. Using publicly available data, we analyze whether the ethnic makeup of a law school’s entering class correlates to the school’s first-time bar pass rates on the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE). We find that the higher the proportion of Black and Hispanic students in a law school’s entering class, the lower the first-time bar passage rate for that school, in its UBE jurisdictions, three years later. This effect is not eliminated by controlling for other potentially causal factors including undergraduate point average, law school admission test score, geographic region, or law school tier. Moreover, the results are statistically robust at a p-value of 0.01 (a 1 in 100 chance that the results are due to random variation in the data). Because these results are at the school level, they may not fully account for relevant factors identifiable only in student-level data. As a result, we argue that a follow-up study using data relating to individual students is necessary to fully understand why the UBE produces racially and ethnically disparate results.
Keywords: bar exam, UBE, Uniform Bar Exam, diversity, bias, law students, legal profession, racism, law school, admission to the bar, quantitative, empirical, regression, statistically significant
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