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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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The Science of Passing the Bar Exam

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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When it comes time to choose electives, law students are awash in a sea of choices with very little in the way of a paddle to help them determine what they should take. The conventional wisdom is that those with a burning desire in a particular area should take courses in that area while those who don’t should take as many bar courses as they can, to help them on the exam. Anecdotally, I’ve heard more than a few people refer to specific courses – secured

On the Freakonomics Blog, Melissa Lafsky has an interesting post on the relationship between taking courses that appear on the bar in law school and likelihood of passing the bar on the first try – The Science of Passing the Bar Exam: Does First-Year Torts Really Matter?, based on research by Douglas Rush and Hisako Matsuo of the Saint Louis University School of Law, Does Law School Curriculum Affect Bar Examination Passage? An Empirical Analysis of the Factors Which Were Related to Bar Examination Passage between 2001 and 2006 at a Midwestern Law School.

The conclusion?

To test this theory, Rush and Matsuo documented every student’s courseload for five different graduating classes at the St. Louis Law School, analyzing the number of bar topic courses taken against bar passage rates the first time the students sat for the exam. Their results were unequivocal: no relationship existed between law school courseloads and the passage rate of students ranked in the first, second or fourth quarters of their law school class, while only a weak relationship existed for students who ranked in the third quarter. Overall, Rush writes, “students in the upper two quartiles passed the exam at an extremely high rate and those in the fourth quartile failed at a high rate, regardless of which classes they took in law school.”

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