Bill Henderson Takes On the California Bar

Josh Wright —  9 November 2007

Bill tells the story of his research team’s failed attempt to get data from the California Bar to test a possible mismatch effect in law schools.  Bill’s prepared remarks are here.  He sums up the case for disclosing the data aptly at the end of his post:

But if we fail to diagnosis factors that contribute to low minority bar passage, we have no basis to formulate effective policy or educational strategies.  Regardless of which way the data cut, our study would have guaranteed one of two favorable outcomes:

    1. Using the more refined California Bar exam (i.e., a continuous dependent variable rather than pass/fail and schools put in analytically useful clusters, unlike the LSAC-BPS data), the mismatch theory would have little or no empirical support.  So a contentious academic theory would be put to bed, at least in the law school context.
    2. A mismatch effect would be supported, which would pressure law schools to take concrete steps to help current or prospective students.  These might include: (a) disclosures that reveal bar passage prospects for past students with similar entering credentials; (b) creation of rigorous academic support programs (such as this one) that increase the bar passage for students in the bottom 1/2 of the class; and (c) identify curricular and teaching strategies that produce higher bar exam scores.

As legal educators, we should want more than the status quo.