California Bar Journal
CBJ - March 2012 #04.
Better Predictors of Effective Lawyering
The California LawyerMarch 2012Better Predictors of Effective LawyeringBy Marjorie Shultz, J.D. and Sheldon Zedeck, Ph.D.By a show of hands, how many employers would like a reliable crystal ball when selecting new associates for their firms, to help determine how likely the candidates are to be effective lawyers? Wow that's a lot of hands.
Recent research conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, offers methods to appraise a wide range of individual competencies related to lawyering. The newly designed methods evaluate a much larger range of abilities than traditional grade and test-score assessments do; lawyers need classroom-type smarts, but they also need a lot of other skills not taught in school: problem solving; advocacy; creativity; self-development; negotiation; practical judgment; stress management; interviewing and counseling, just to name a few.
In the research, conducted between 1999 and 2008, more than 2,200 lawyers participated during Phase I in individual interviews, focus groups and surveys to determine what factors lawyers believed important for professional effectiveness. Participants also supplied real-life examples to create scales attuned to actual lawyers' behaviors so that an individual's professional performance could be rated in terms of those factors.
Based on this information, researchers developed a new test battery that assesses the identified competencies. During the Phase III validation process, approximately 1,100 graduates of Berkeley Law and Hastings College of the Law (graduating between 1975 and 2006, practicing in a variety of fields and settings) took the new test, and granted access to their academic credentials. After taking the new test battery, those who participated also provided contact information for two peers and two supervisors who could evaluate their current work performance on 26 effectiveness factors identified earlier in the research.
Researchers next compared each test-taker's scores on the new test battery with the ratings by self, peer and supervisors of on-the-job performances. Correlations were significant enough to demonstrate that a wide array of lawyering skills can be predicted. The new test battery showed significant correlations (validity) in...