Does the Bar Exam Protect the Public?

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies


I study the effects of requiring lawyers to pass the bar exam on whether they are later publicly disciplined for misconduct. In the 1980s, four states began to require graduates from all law schools to pass the bar exam by abolishing what is known as a diploma privilege. My research design exploits these events to estimate the effect of the bar passage requirement on the share of lawyers who receive public sanctions by state discipline bodies. I find that lawyers licensed without a bar passage requirement receive public sanctions at similar rates to lawyers licensed after passing a bar exam for the first decade of their careers, but small differences begin to emerge after a decade, and larger but modest differences emerge after two decades.


Occupational Licensing, Legal Profession, Professional Discipline, Bar Exam

Publication Citation

Kyle Rozema, Does the Bar Exam Protect the Public?, 18 J. Empirical Legal Stud. 801 (2021)