If you haven’t heard the rumors, organizations like Law School Transparency claim that some law schools are acting irresponsibly. How? Because they admit students with low LSAT scores. Supposedly, this means that they’re admitting students who don’t have a good chance of passing the bar. Law School Transparency claims that we should care about the LSAT scores of incoming students “because the LSAT is the best predictor before law school of whether a student will pass or fail the bar exam.” But is that really true? How strong is the LSAT bar passage correlation? The Law School Admissions Council definitely thinks it is not strong. And the LSAC saw so much misinformation floating around that the president had to respond! Here’s why the LSAC doesn’t believe the LSAT is the best predictor of bar success.
The LSAT Doesn’t Test All Skills
The Law School Transparency report presented data and claimed that “many law schools are enrolling students who face substantial risk of failing the bar exam to keep their doors open.” Unfortunately, LST based this conclusion mainly on students’ LSAT scores.
However, the LSAC asserts that the LSAT is only designed to test certain cognitive skills. Specifically, “the LSAT assesses the kinds of verbal reasoning skills that have been shown to be critical for success in law school.” While these skills might apply to how well someone can handle the bar, it isn’t the complete picture of what it takes to pass the bar the first time.
In addition, the LSAT is meant to predict law school performance, not bar passage rates. The LSAC boasts that “the LSAT is the single best predictor of first-year law school grades, even better than undergraduate GPA.” And the LSAC takes their research pretty seriously. So it’s wrong to overreach and make conclusions beyond the LSAC’s conclusions.
Specific LSAT Scores Shouldn’t Be Used to Categorize Students
As mentioned, the LSAT isn’t intended to measure bar passage success. So it wouldn’t be right to categorize students’ bar passage likelihood as “high-risk” or “low-risk” based on specific scores.
Although every student gets a specific LSAT score, remember that two students with close scores, like 149 and 150, could still fall within the same score band. Why do students get placed in a score band? Because the LSAT isn’t perfect. The LSAC doesn’t claim that they can perfectly measure a student’s ability. So a score band contains the range of scores that likely measure the student’s proficiency.
So ultimately, the LSAC takes issue with the fact that LST claimed that a student with a 149 is at higher risk than a student who scored 150. They could have the same performance level! So it’s wrong to claim that law schools should use very specific scores to predict bar passage.
LSAT Bar Passage Correlation
In the end, law schools admit students using all the resources available to them. They’re hoping that you’ll be an excellent student. However, several more factors are involved with your bar passage. Either way, even if students don’t pass the bar the first time, even 90% of below-average LSAT scorers eventually pass the bar!