Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A New Test for Law School Admissions

It is probably safe to say that no one thinks that the LSAT is a perfect measure of students' ability to perform well in law school or to be effective attorneys. Although success on the LSAT seems to correlate fairly closely with success in the first year of law school, it seems not to predict who is going to be a good lawyer. And I wonder what is the matter with the first-year curriculum if it has a weak relationship to future success as a lawyer. During my years in legal education, I have known students who did not perform particularly well in law school but who turned out to be really good as practitioners. And I have known students who aced law school but would be clueless if they had to go to court. A whole lot of success in the law, as in life, has to do with discipline and hard work.

Against this backdrop, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have been working to produce a standardized test for law-school admissions that would predict success as a lawyer, according to a story in today's Inside Higher Ed. The report, Identification, Development, and Validation of Predictors for Successful Lawyering, is not suggesting that "traditional admissions processes" be abandoned, but it should spark discussion of the qualities that law schools look for when they make their admissions decisions. Professor Ellen Rutt, chair of the Law School Admissions Council, said she hoped the new testing approach, which would look beyond traditional testing methodology and include an assessment of personality, would not "'supplant the LSAT,'" but "perhaps ... provide 'useful information' on top of the LSAT."

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