Thursday, May 26, 2016

What Predicts Law Success?: An Empirical Study

A new, extensive longitudinal study identifies strong predictors and points out weak and nonexistent predictors. Alexia Brunet Marks & Scott A. Moss, What Predicts Law School Success? A Longitudinal Study Correlating Law Student Applicant Data and Law School Outcomes. Here are the primary findings:

(1) LSAT predicts more weakly, and UGPA more powerfully, than commonly assumed - and a high‐LSAT/low‐UGPA profile may predict worse than the opposite;

(2) a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) or EAF (economics, accounting, finance) major is a significant plus, akin to three and a half to four extra LSAT points;

(3) several years’ work experience is a significant plus, with teaching especially positive and military the weakest;

(4) a criminal or disciplinary record is a significant minus, akin to seven and a half fewer LSAT points; and

(5) long‐noted gender disparities seem to have abated, but racial disparities persist.

Some predictors were interestingly nonlinear: college quality has decreasing returns; UGPA has increasing returns; a rising UGPA is a plus only for law students right out of college; and four to nine years of work is a “sweet spot.” Certain groups - those with military or public‐sector work, or a criminal/disciplinary record - have high LGPA variance, indicating a mix of high and low performers requiring close scrutiny. Many traditionally valued traits had no predictive value: typical prelaw majors (political science, history, etc.); legal or public‐sector work; or college leadership.

You can access the study here.


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