Friday, December 2, 2011
Marjorie M. Shultz (UC-Berkeley, Law) & Sheldon Zedeck (Vice Provost, UC-Berkeley), Predicting Lawyer Effectiveness: A New Assessment for Use in Law School Admission Decisions, 36 Law & Soc. Inquiry 620 (2011):
The problem of how to define merit and achieve equity in high stakes selection is deeply contested in the many arenas of our society where scarce resources and privileges are allocated. Law school admission is one such arena. The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) dominates current admission decisions for law school, but it assesses only a few competencies and has a large adverse impact on minority applicants. Moreover, the LSAT and its associated Index Score focus on law school performance and are not strongly predictive of lawyer performance.
Innovative exploratory research by two UC Berkeley faculty (Marjorie Shultz, Law and Sheldon Zedeck, Psychology) has demonstrated that on-the-job professional effectiveness of lawyers can be predicted. The new Shultz-Zedeck tests, developed based on models from employment selection and promotion and the field of industrial psychology, identify and assess many factors not measured by the LSAT that are vital to lawyer efficacy, such as problem solving, advocacy, practical judgment, and communication skills. Exploratory research conducted with participation of more than 5000 law grads suggests that tests can be developed and validated that will predict professional performance (as appraised by peers and supervisors). Equally important, performance on these new tests shows no significant race, ethnic or gender differences. This research has the potential to diversify the pool of students admitted to law schools and to do so on the basis of a principled definition of merit rather than on the basis of more politically and legally controversial methods of race-conscious affirmative action. The next step is a national validation study to ready this new approach to law school admission for adoption by the nation’s law schools.