Several years ago, concerned about what was then a low bar pass rate (it has since improved quite a lot) the UM law school did a pretty comprehensive study in an attempt to identify which factors in our students’ legal education might be correlated with bar passage or failure.
As I recall, the data collected for the study failed to confirm almost every hypothesis to a statistically significant confidence interval except the fact that being right at the bottom of the class — having been on academic probation, and maybe graduating in the bottom 10% if I recall — was a very significant marker for likelihood of failing the bar. Everything else we could measure from transcripts (if I recall, and it was quite a while ago, we didn’t do a formal survey of bar study habits) failed to show a statistically significant effect on bar passage odds — not being in the top 10%, not taking particular courses, not taking particular professors or particular sections of ‘bar courses’.
We were left with anecdotal evidence, but I believed it: the people who showed up to bar review and who worked hard passed; the people who skipped bar review classes and/or didn’t study like fiends, were far more likely to fail. This was one of the reasons why, when the Deans asked us to, I agreed to toughen my class attendance policies: I decided it made sense to send the institutional message that an important part of life is just showing up.
Comes now this unfortunate reminder that without enough cramming anyone can fail the bar exam, even very very accomplished lawyers….even law Deans: WSJ.com – Raising the Bar: Even Top Lawyers Fail California Exam.