Proposed New Law Admission Test From Berkeley Profs

Berkeley professors Marjorie M. Shultz (law) and Sheldon Zedeck (psychology) released a report last September, only now picked up on by the New York Times, that releases the results of a study done with a newly devised law school admission test and that recommends that this line of inquiry be pursued on a larger scale, with an eye to replacing the standard LSAT.

Motivated in large part by the recent striking down of reverse discrimination laws and practices in the California and the consequent reduction in the numbers of Black and Hispanic law students in that state, as well as a sense that although the LSAT predicts law school grades well it doesn’t predict success as a lawyer, the authors devised their own test of who should be admitted based on whether they would make good lawyers. To do this they had to identify the personal traits involved in good lawyering, and then, of course, find ways to test for these in applicants. They did this in part by interviewing alumni, law students and professors about the qualities wanted in a good lawyer, which produced a list of 26 such traits.

Because I think this is the most interesting aspect of the study — apart from the main and obvious ones of aiming at equity and acknowledging that practice is the fate of nearly all graduates — I’m reproducing here the “26 effectiveness factors” gathered under 8 “umbrella factors”:

    1 : Intellectual & Cognitive

  • Analysis and Reasoning
  • Creativity/Innovation
  • Problem Solving
  • Practical Judgment

    2: Research & Information Gathering

  • Researching the Law
  • Fact Finding
  • Questioning and Interviewing

    3: Communications

  • Influencing and Advocating
  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Listening

    4: Planning and Organizing

  • Strategic Planning
  • Organizing and Managing One’s Own Work
  • Organizing and Managing Others (Staff/Colleagues)

    5: Conflict Resolution

  • Negotiation Skills
  • Able to See the World Through the Eyes of Others

    6: Client & Business Relations – Entrepreneurship

  • Networking and Business Development
  • Providing Advice & Counsel & Building Relationships
    with Clients

    7: Working with Others

  • Developing Relationships within the Legal Profession
  • Evaluation, Development, and Mentoring

    8: Character

  • Passion and Engagement
  • Diligence
  • Integrity/Honesty
  • Stress Management
  • Community Involvement and Service
  • Self-Development

There are any surprises on this list, and the phrases are a bit muddy, mixing adjectives and noun phrases (though I suppose they mean to describe abilities, actual or potential); but it’s a place to start. I have to say I’d like to see the graduating class chosen three years earlier by this method — provided they were taught by a method that didn’t undo the admission committee’s work.

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