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Law School admission criteria questioned

Posted by on July 23, 2015 in In The News - 1 Comment
Does the LSAT predict success in law school?

Does the LSAT predict success in law school?

I recently completed my freshman year at Cornell University. Although I have three years remaining in Ithaca, I’m beginning to explore my career options. As I learn about the law school application process, it is quite clear that LSAT scores are the most important part of an student’s application, weighted even more heavily than GPA, work experience, or extracurricular activities. As the number of law school applications has dropped to a 15-year low, law schools are competing especially hard for the best applicants.  Certainly, schools look for student’s who are most likely to thrive during law school, pass the bar exam, and lead exceptional legal careers.  However, in a recent study by University of Colorado Law School professors Alexia Brunet Marks and Scott A. Moss, the authors ask whether LSAT’s are the best predictor of future student success.  They conducted a longitudinal study of 1400 law school students between 2005-2012.  All students attended Case Western Reserve University or University of Colorado Law Schools.  Variables examined include LSAT scores, GPA, work experience, college quality, college major, extracurricular leadership, prior criminal record, and GPA trajectory.  In this study, success is simply defined as law school grade point average, which the authors acknowledge is imperfect, but is still predictive of bar exam passage, gaining employment, and initial salary.   They conclude that LSATs are a good predictor of first year grades in law school, however undergraduate GPA is a better predictor 0f grades throughout all three years of law school. They suggest that LSATs are overweighted in the admission process compared to other important metrics such as undergraduate GPA, college quality, and college major.  The authors state that LSAT cutoffs “are ill-advised.”  Ironically, annual law school rankings, such as the U.S. News and World Report, heavily weight the LSAT scores of admitted students.  In other words, law schools may find the work of Professors Marks and Moss to be compelling, yet they are still likely to be influenced by controversial and well-circulated rankings.  It remains to be seen if law school admission officers will shift their emphasis from a four-hour exam to a four-year experience.

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