How well you did on the LSAT is a pretty good predictor of how you're going to do on the multi-state bar exam. Undergrad grades have some correlation to MBE success, but not as much. That's what this article from the director of testing for the National Conference of Bar Examiners says, and the conclusion makes sense, especially as an explanation for why elite law schools generally have better bar passage rates than other law schools, even while their students are taking classes like Aristotle's Ethics, and Blood Feuds. It doesn't mean that someone with high aptitude for this type of multiple choice test can't blow it or that someone who struggles with the tests can't succeed. But there it is.
Conversations about which states have the hardest and easiest bar exams typically look to the states' overall bar passage rate. By that measure, Michigan had the fourth hardest bar exam in the country last July at a 57% passage rate. But Pepperdine law prof Bob Anderson invites us to examine the passage data based on the characteristics of the exam-takers in each state's applicant pool. He ran a regression of the bar passage rate for each ABA-accredited school for 2010 and 2011 on the school's median undergraduate GPA and LSAT, with an indicator variable for each state, weighted by the number of takers at each school. By straight pass percentage rate, 21 states had an easier exam than Michigan's in July 2011, which had a 76% passage rate. But, using his analysis, Anderson says:
[B]ased on bar passage rates, one would conclude that the Michigan and New York bar exams were of almost identical difficulty, when in fact New York is much more difficult. Actually, the Michigan bar exam was not only very easy in 2010-2011, but also had results that didn't correlate much with candidate quality, which is suspicious. Perhaps that is why it was changed dramatically in 2012.
Anderson promises "more on that" in a later post, and we'll be watching out for it. Meanwhile, SBM Blog has flagged the words "candidate quality" in Anderson's post. And promises more on that in a later post, soon.