In the U.S., thousands of graduate school applicants sit each year for one or more of the standardized tests that most universities require as part of their admissions process. One of them, the Law School Admission Test, known as the LSAT, measures the reading comprehension and verbal reasoning skills of hopeful attorneys-to-be — yielding results that purport to predict success in law school and in practice later.
But does the LSAT in fact measure the right stuff?
Researchers at the UC-Berkeley School of Law think that they have identified tests more accurate than the LSAT, according to a report by Petra Pasternak published at Law.com, “Berkeley Wants Research on LSAT Alternatives to Go National“. According to Pasternak,
Roughly 10 years have passed since Berkeley law professor Marjorie Shultz set out to find a more complete way to test students for admission to law school. This fall, she and Berkeley psychology professor Sheldon Zedeck have wrapped up their findings in a 100-page report, now available on the law school’s Web site. They say the LSAT, with its focus on cognitive skills, does not measure for skills such as creativity, negotiation, problem-solving or stress management, but that they have found promising new and existing tests from the employment context that do…
Jeffrey Brand, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law, said that the research is welcome. Brand…said that passing the bar exam is clearly important.
“But we also need lawyers with the kind of skill sets that the world needs — like empathy, persuasiveness and the willingness to have the courage to do the right thing — which the LSAT does not measure,” Brand said.
Proponents of alternatives to the LSAT will no doubt have tough negotiations ahead of them as they endeavor to persuade the legal community of the merits of utilizing other measurement tools to predict effectiveness in law school and beyond. I wish them success: the legal profession and the public it serves can only benefit from this closer inquiry into what it takes to be an effective lawyer today.