National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study (NLBPS)
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) National Longitudinal Bar
Passage Study was undertaken primarily in response to rumors and
anecdotal reports suggesting that bar passage rates were so low among
examinees of color that potential applicants were questioning the wisdom
of investing the time and resources necessary to obtain a legal
education. There were no reliable sources of national empirical data to
support or refute those claims. When the LSAC committed to conducting
this study, it was done with the conviction that the information was
vital to legal education regardless of the outcome. If the dismal
failure rates being reported in whispers were accurate, legal education
would need to rethink both its admission and educational policy and
practice. If they were false, they needed to be replaced with accurate
This study presents national longitudinal bar passage data gathered from
the class that started law school in fall 1991. Data provided by
students, their law schools, and state boards of bar examiners over a
five-year period are included in the summaries and analyses presented
herein. The goals of the data analysis were two: to report for the first
time national bar examination outcome data by ethnicity and gender and
to explore factors that could explain differences in outcomes. Summary
statistics, graphical illustrations, and mathematical models were used
to analyze and present the data. The major findings of the study are as
- The eventual bar passage rate for all study participants was 94.8
percent (21,886 of 23,086).
- The eventual passage rate for all study participants of color was
84.7 percent (2950 of 3482).
- The eventual passage rates for racial and ethnic groups were:
American Indian, 82.2 percent (88 of 107); Asian American, 91.9
percent (883 of 961); black, 77.6 percent (1062 of 1368); Mexican
American, 88.4 percent (352 of 398); Puerto Rican, 79.7 percent (102
of 128); Hispanic, 89.0 percent (463 of 520), white, 96.7 percent
(18,664 of 19,285); and other, 91.5 percent (292 of 319).
- Among those examinees of color who eventually passed, between 94
and 97 percent passed after one or two attempts and 99 percent
passed by the third attempt.
- The eventual pass rates increased substantially over first-time
rates for all examinees.
- There were no differences in bar passage rates between men and
- Both law school grade-point average (LGPA) and Law School
Admission Test (LSAT) score were the strongest predictors of bar
examination passage for all groups studied.
- Other measurement variables, such as undergraduate grade-point
average (UGPA) and selectivity of the undergraduate school, failed
to make a practical additional contribution to a bar-passage
prediction model that already included LGPA and LSAT scores.
- When the effects of both LGPA and LSAT score were removed, the
probability of passing varied significantly by groups of law schools
and by geographic region in which the bar examination was taken.
- When a series of background variables typically identified as
potential contributors to low academic achievement were examined,
they showed no relationship to bar passage or failure. These
variables included academic expectations for self, language spoken
in the home, need to work for pay during undergraduate school, and
financial responsibility for others during law school.
- Some differences were found with respect to age for all ethnic
groups and with respect to socioeconomic status for some but not all
- A demographic profile that could distinguish first-time passing
examinees from eventual-passing or never-passing examinees did not
emerge from these data.
- Although students of color entered law school with academic
credentials, as measured by UGPA and LSAT scores, that were
significantly lower than those of white students, their eventual bar
passage rates justified admission practices that look beyond those