January 31, 2023

Nevada Bar Exam Validity Study: Do Bar Exams Truly Distinguish Qualified From Unqualified Attorneys? | UC Hastings College of the Law | Grant Outcomes |

Academic and Bar Success


This study examined the extent to which the bar exam measures minimum competence to practice law. It involved a collaboration between the Nevada State Bar; the Nevada Supreme Court; the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of California College of the Law, San Francisco (formerly UC Hastings); and AccessLex. It was the first study of its kind to receive permission from Professors Marjorie Schultz and Sheldon Zedeck to use the “lawyering effectiveness” criteria that resulted from their landmark research into effective lawyering and lawyer competence.

Over 500 recently barred attorneys in Nevada were evaluated — by judges, supervisors, peers, and themselves — using Schultz and Zedeck’s criteria. The analysis of the results shows that MBE scores are only weak predictors of lawyering effectiveness, and that no single essay question — not even an MPT question — possesses a large amount of explanatory power as to whether or not a candidate will be an effective lawyer. This study has profound implications for contemporary discussions about the development of new assessments of lawyering effectiveness and the restructuring of pathways for licensure and entry into the legal profession.