Law Students

Data on about 6,500 law students proves my mismatch theory, shows racial-preference harm, law prof says

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A controversial law professor has said data on about 6,500 law students at four law schools provides strong support for his “academic mismatch” theory—that law students with lower qualifications than their peers fall behind and have worse outcomes in a learning environment geared toward better-qualified students.

Richard Sander, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, said in a March 15 blog post the study bolsters his assertion that racial preferences can harm the minority students they were supposed to help.

The Volokh Conspiracy noted the post.

“Our findings are even stronger than we expected,” Sander wrote. “A student’s degree of mismatch in law school is by far the strongest predictor of whether he or she will pass a bar exam on a first attempt.”

Sander published a chart to illustrate his findings. Take, for example, a student with a middling Law School Admission Test score of 152. Only 22% of students with a score of 150 to 152 at the “elite” law school UCLA passed the bar on the first try. But at the “near-elite” law school the University of California at Davis School of Law, 51% of students passed their first bar exam. At the “non-elite” law school University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, 79% of students with that scoring range passed the bar the first time.

Sander conducted the study with Robert Steinbuch, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s law school. Their first set of results will be published in the Journal of Legal Education after a multiyear review process.

Sander recalled his prior estimate that mismatch could account for half of the bar passage gap between Black and white law graduates.

“Our findings indicate, however, that mismatch can account for two-thirds to three-quarters of the Black-white gap, as well as more than half of the Hispanic-white gap,” Sander wrote.

“Race-specific effects completely disappear,” however, when the study controls for mismatch, LSAT score and undergraduate grade point average, Sander said.

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