The American Bar Association is expected to consider a proposal later this year that would remove its requirement that law schools use the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) when making student admission determinations.
Proponents of the change mainly cite the adverse impact caused by the exam, saying it has a direct impact on the lack of diversity in the industry. A 2019 study found the average score for Black test takers was 142 out of 180, compared to 153 for White and Asian students. Law school experts say, historically, a score of 150 is required to gain admission to most law schools, with that score rising to 170 for the T14.
Those with disabilities have also spoken up against the requirement. In a public comment provided to the ABA, a student with a disability shared that even though the LSAT does allow for accommodations, “the application process is tenuous,” placing undue burden on the already disenfranchised.
Those in favor of preserving the LSAT say that it is an objective way to level the playing field for students from different backgrounds, as well as the “single best predictor for law school success.” The creator of the LSAT also claims that the test functions as a consumer protection safeguard for applicants who might not be ready to handle the rigors of law school, but who could accumulate lots of debt in their attempt.
Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, it’s important to look at the numbers surrounding these claims in support of the LSAT. Ultimately, the LSAT is meant to predict how well a student will perform during their first year in law school. According to its creators, the LSAT has a predictive validity of 60%, meaning 60% of the time, its score is, in fact, correlated to how someone performs in their first year in law school. From a predictive validity standpoint, 60% is relatively high.
But GPA, especially 1L GPA, has very little bearing on how well a student will actually perform as an attorney. When looking at on-the-job performance, Suited data tells us that the LSAT has a predictive validity of only 0.53%. Meaning, if you stack-ranked the thousands of incumbent attorneys we've assessed, from the top performer to the bottom performer, their LSAT score only explains 0.03% at the minimum, 2.68% at the most, with an average of 0.53%. While there is some predictive value as it does relate to on-the-job performance, it simply isn't material.
GPA, the thing that the LSAT is meant to predict, only explains 2.1% of performance. This data comes from thousands of practicing attorneys across over a dozen of our partner firms, in combination with publicly available industry data.
Many attorneys acknowledge that traditional metrics like the LSAT and law school GPA do not accurately capture what it’s like to successfully analyze or practice the law. However, without them, they are forced to rely on even more subjective or circumstantial data points such as law school rank, holding a law review position, connections, referrals, or prior work experience.
But as we have seen throughout the history of the profession, attorneys don’t often cite their scores, rankings, or prestigious backgrounds as the key to their success. When we talk about high performers in the field, we often reference certain traits that make them great; their grit, their analytical thinking, their compassion, their ability to persuade, among others. In fact, these sorts of traits can explain up to 70% of on-the-job performance.
It is entirely possible to define and measure these sorts of traits. By understanding what factors are most important for success, assessing those traits throughout the hiring (or admission) process, and knowing how to weigh each factor appropriately—more accurate, equitable, and efficient decisions can be made.
To learn more about how Suited makes these types of decisions possible, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.