California Bar Journal
CBJ - June 2009 #03.
Researchers suggest expanding criteria for law school admission
California Bar Journal June 2009 Researchers suggest expanding criteria for law school admissionBy Diane Curtis Staff WriterA successful trial of tests that measure such attributes as empathy, research abilities, stress management and writing capabilities has made "a compelling case" for moving ahead on efforts to expand law school admissions criteria beyond the LSAT, according to a pair of UC-Berkeley researchers.
In the final leg of a six-year, three-phase study, retired law professor Marjorie Shultz and psychology professor Sheldon Zedeck found that tests measuring 26 "effectiveness factors" foreshadow future performance in the legal profession much as the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) is said to predict success or failure during the first year of law school. Unlike the LSAT, the performance factors do not have the racial differences seen in the LSAT, Shultz and Zedeck say.
"Definitions of 'merit' and 'qualification' have become too narrow and static," the Berkeley professors wrote in their report, "Identification, Development, and Validation of Predictors for Successful Lawyering."
"They hamper legal education's goal of producing diverse, talented and balanced generations of law graduates who will serve the many mandates and constituencies of the legal profession."
The academics are not recommending doing away with the LSAT or consideration of grades, but with adding other tests that focus on likelihood of professional effectiveness. "To base admission to law school so heavily on LSAT scores is to choose academic skills (and only a subset of those) as the prime determinant of who gets into law and law-related careers that demand many competencies in addition to test-taking, reading and reasoning skills," they wrote.
The work of Shultz and Zedeck stemmed from a goal of then-Dean Herma Hill Kay a decade ago to find ways to enlarge the pool of applicants to law schools in a post-affirmative action era. "To admit primarily on the basis of LSAT test scores and grades to a professional field that has great importance to our society seemed short-sighted," Shultz and Zedeck wrote. "We believe the exploratory data reported here make a compelling case for undertaking large-scale, more definitive research...