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Is It Time to Change the LSAT?

Few lawyers who've taken the LSAT can identify any connection between the exam's largely theoretical questions and the actual practice of law. So it's no surprise that two professors at the University of California agree that the LSAT is a poor predictor of a student's performance in law school or his or her success as an attorney, reports the The New York Times. But if LSATs don't predict performance or success, then what test -- if any -- should law schools use to determine eligibility for admission?

That's the question that retired Berkeley law professor Marjorie Shultz and Professor Sheldon Zedeck, her colleague in the university's psychology department, set out to answer. First, they surveyed and interviewed law professors, judges, law firm clients and law school grads, asking them questions such as: “If you were looking for a lawyer for an important matter for yourself, what qualities would you most look for? What kind of lawyer do you want to teach or be?” The survey generated 26 desirable characteristics, including the ability to "write, manage stress, listen, research the law and solve problems." With these traits in mind, the professors created a new test that focuses on an applicant's ability to respond to hypothetical questions instead of simply testing analytical ability like the current test.

So what were the results? The professors administered the test to 1,100 lawyers who allowed researchers to compare the results of the new test to their original LSAT scores and grades from law school and college. After all of the research, it turned out that the alternative test wasn't much better at predicting law school performance. But unlike the LSAT, the new test did not produce a gap in scores among different racial or ethnic groups.

Personally, I don't think that there's any test that can predict performance or success -- it's all a matter of circumstance. After all, look at all the newly unemployed lawyers from top firms. Most probably scored in the top tier of LSAT scores, yet they're now jobless. The LSAT couldn't have predicted that outcome, just as the skills that enabled those lawyers to perform well on the LSAT can't save them now.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on March 12, 2009 at 03:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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