What Good is the LSAT Anyway?

by Vault Law Editors | March 29, 2011

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Under the most recent drafts of the American Bar Association’s accreditation standards, the LSAT would no longer be required for law school admissions. One Connecticut attorney is wondering what the LSAT is good for anyway. Amy F. Goodusky, Counsel at O’Brien, Tanski & Young, believes the test “bears no relation whatsoever to the talents one is called upon to display during or after law school.” According to Ms. Goodusky,

. . . I have never understood how it is that being able to determine the number of black, white, gray and brown hats that hang from six pegs if one of the hats came from Argentina and only the black hats are lactose intolerant has anything to do with how to ask a concise and lucid deposition question, write a Motion for Order of Compliance, or calm an unhinged client who has just received a subpoena.

If there is anyone who can tell me whether the fact that I understand a paragraph written by Gertrude Stein demonstrates that I will be able to put the two correct search terms into the virtual box for a WestLaw query with the appropriate number of words between them so as to produce a current piece of jurisprudence on point with the one I wish to prove, I would be most grateful.

While lactose intolerant hats are quite important to practicing attorneys, I see Ms. Goodusky’s point. I never had an “aha” moment during my law school or legal career during which I thought, wow these skills I’m applying are just like the ones I used to complete those logic games. In fact, there were quite a few times when I noted the opposite—that success was at least partially due to skills and practices that weren’t tested by the LSAT: hard work, long hours of studying, research and writing abilities, the art of persuasion, thinking creatively to reach solutions, etc.

Of course, other important aspects of law school and legal work are thinking critically about a legal issue and applying the law properly. Analytical skills are essential in law school and legal practice. Does the LSAT adequately measure one’s analytical abilities? I don’t know. Is there another type of test that will better measure one’s aptitude for law school and legal practice? Perhaps. But no standardized test will make everyone happy—these tests are meant for the masses not to conform to individuals.

I don’t think that any test can actually quantify one’s ability to succeed in the legal profession—there are too many factors that lead to success: communication skills, leadership, writing abilities, research skills, negotiation tactics, analytical abilities, etc. But I understand that schools may require a standardized tool for comparison due to the sheer number of law school applicants. So perhaps the answer isn’t tossing the LSAT completely, but rather weighing it more equally with other admissions factors. It may be a useful tool for law schools, but it doesn’t need to be the only tool, especially given the various skills that may lead to legal career success.

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