Between 1991-97 the LSAC (people who run the LSAT) did a study called the LSAC-BPS. They tracked 27,000 law students before, during and after law school to see what factors influence graduation rates and bar passage.
The following charts are based on my own computations using the LSAC-BPS data. Keep in mind that in law school admissions, Asians are not considered under-represented racial minorities, and typically don’t receive preferences. Nor, obviously, do whites. Similarly, African-Americans and Latinos almost always receive preferences.
Thnk about what these figures say about the status of racial equality in legal eduation.
Attrition rates prior to graduation
This is the proportion of students of each race who started law school but hadn’t graduated by the end of the study. African-American and Latino students are considerably more likely to drop out than Asians or whites.
Failure rates on first bar exam
The disparity in graduation rates becomes even more pronounced at after the first bar exam. This makes sense, since students who scraped by in law school are less likely to be performing at an adequate threshold for the bar. And who are these students near the bottom of the class? Many of them were admitted under preferences.
African-Americans fail their first bar exam at over 4 times the rate for white students. For Latinos, it’s over 3 times that rate.
Net bar exam failure rates
The LSAC-BPS didn’t track the results for every bar exam taken during the study, just the first and the last. Roughly speaking, that lets us figure out what proportion of the study members ended up with a valid bar membership, i.e. could actually practice law.
In other words, during the time of the study, Latino law students were about 4 times less likely than white students to end up as lawyers. African-Americans were 7 times less likely.
(Actually, the real numbers are even higher, because I’m not factoring in students who dropped out of school, or who graduated and never took the bar. They didn’t become lawyers either.)
As for equality in legal education, I think the numbers speak for themselves. I will only add two points:
1) The loss of so many minority students on the way through law school & the bar means admissions preferences are effective for creating racially diverse law students but not nearly as effective for creating racially diverse lawyers.
Worse, the attrition means there’s plenty of URM students out there who paid for multiple years of legal education and have the debt to prove it, but not the bar membership. Is it good enough for law schools to admit a diverse student body, or do schools need to make sure these students are actually becoming lawyers?
2) Schools have been on notice for a while now about the disparity in graduation and bar passage rates. Every school knows which students graduate; every school knows which students pass the bar. Is it good enough for law schools to have this information and not share it or act on it?
12 Jun 06
Epilogue 8: Buy my book
Epilogue 7: Recessionaires cont'd
Epilogue 6: Schill quits UCLA
Epilogue 5: recessionaires
Okay, I lied. Epilogue 4
Epilogue 3: The End (really)
Epilogue 2: Nov 2007
The eagle has landed
Seduced by the dark side
You've been in law school too long when...
I have only five more class days
The lone gunman
The last spring break is over
Someone saved your life tonight
Dean Schill & the Pussymobile
Help me yet again