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Study Finds No Racial Gap in LSAT Alternative Measuring Lawyer-Like Qualities

Posted Mar 11, 2009 8:02 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A study of an alternative to the Law School Admission Test found it was better at predicting lawyer effectiveness, but no better at predicting success in law school.

Another plus for the alternative test, developed by professors at the University of California at Berkeley, is that its scores had no racial and ethnic disparities—unlike the LSAT, the New York Times reports.

The new test is designed to measure “raw lawyerly talent” rather than focusing on analytic ability, the story says. It includes hypothetical legal quandaries, such as how to respond if a top company employee is found to have omitted information on a job application.

Eliminating racial disparities in test results was a goal of one of the study’s authors, retired Berkeley law professor Marjorie Shultz. She told the Times she began thinking about the issue after California voters passed Proposition 209 banning school admissions officers from taking race into account.

“Proposition 209 and the reduced numbers of minority admits prompted me to think hard about what constitutes merit for purposes of law school admission, and to decide LSAT was much too narrow, as well as having big adverse impact,” Shultz told the Times.

To design the test, Shultz and Berkeley psychology professor Sheldon Zedeck developed a list of 26 characteristics displayed by good lawyers, gleaned from surveys of judges, law professors, law firm clients and Berkeley law grads, the story says. The factors include the ability to write, manage stress, listen, research the law and solve problems.

More than 1,100 lawyers took the test and gave researchers their original LSAT scores and college and law school grades. Now the researchers hope to take the test study to a national level.

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