September 1, 2009

What college major leads to the lowest scores on the LSAT?

Oops. It's criminal justice. Second worst — the irony continues: pre-law.

I think this has less to do with whether the major prepares you for the exam than with the raw talent of the people who choose various majors. That's why physics/math comes in first. My theory, anyway. The best advice for those who want to go on to law school is to study something you're very interested in and good at. It will help you get a good GPA, which counts about as much as the LSAT in admissions. It will make college intrinsically rewarding. (Try to make whatever you do intrinsically rewarding.*) And it will give you an opportunity to find out more about your own preferences which you will need to have when you get out of law school and find a path within law. It will also give you the ability to be drawn away from the idea going to law school, which is certainly not a bad thing.

_____________

*To think more deeply about what it means to do what is intrinsically rewarding, read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book, "Flow." At page 49 of the 1991 Harper Perennial edition, he describes the 8 components of flow:
First, the experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing. Second, we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing. Third and fourth, the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and immediate feedback. Fifth, one acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life. Sixth, enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions. Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over. Finally, the sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours. The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feel that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it.

62 comments:

campy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dac said...

Actually other degrees may make you more employable upon graduation - engineering for example, pre-med as another. It's one thing to know the law - it's another to know the subject matter that you may be litigating over

Bruce Hayden said...

Not surprising that math/physics is first. On average, some of the smartest lawyers I know had one or the other major. Of course, I am prejudiced a bit, with a math major as an undergraduate, but also high LSATs. Back when they were on an 800 scale, I was surprised to find that people got below 700. But, then, everyone I knew well enough to be sharing LSATs with was in either the math or the physics department.

My grades are why I didn't end up going to Harvard (besides being married by the time I went to law school, etc.) The good grades are probably what make the best lawyers, not high LSATs. Being hard working often beats being brilliant in a very laborious field of endeavor.

Bruce Hayden said...

I was loathe to discover that my math degree didn't qualify me to do much of anything after graduation.

My senior year in high school, I was admitted to a small liberal arts school and an engineering school. My mother eventually talked me into going to the small liberal arts school to get me out of the house (I could have easily commuted to the engineering school). Then four or five years later, when the engineers had jobs, and we didn't, she regretted what she had done - and I didn't. A liberal arts school is much more fun, and you do get a much broader education. For example, I found a classics teacher I loved, and took two more years of Latin as a result.

WV - patinge - sounds like it should relate to what I do for a living (patents), but don't quite see how.

Jeremy said...

So, you're saying that if we were all Flowing, we'd be less distracted by althouse.blogspot.com and more attentive to our work. Huh? That'd be weird.

-The Other Jeremy

bagoh20 said...

I never worked in law but, like many, I have had to answer a complaint and do some other stuff pro per. I always wondered if those voluminous briefs and loads of document that lawyers and their assistants produce ever get read or do they just fill up boxes somewhere.

It seems that, although it can be challenging and therefore interesting to a novice, it must surely be drudgery to write the 20th one and definitely the 100th. I imagine having to read others' drudgery for a living would be torture.

Maybe it take a special person. I admit that ain't me.

I understand Ann's case where she is educating people, that would make it interesting. But as a judge, reading the briefs for the 100th divorce case would lead me to suicide or at least the penis pump.

Zach said...

In math and physics, you spend hours and hours doing proofs and derivations. After that much practice, you really ought to ace a test that's 2/3 analytical and logical reasoning questions.

George Grady said...

Of course, pre-law and criminal justice majors do worst. These are people who built their undergraduate careers around becoming lawyers someday. They're going to take that test whether they have a clue or not.

John Lynch said...

Good video games are Flow.

TRO said...

It's interesting because many law enforcement agencies, and certainly the federal ones, advise against getting a criminal justice degree (at least informally). They would much prefer something with more teeth in it like a science degree, or accounting or something heavy in foreign languages.

I know when I am asked what degree we are looking for I tell them anything but a CJ degree.

Of course what do I know? For my bachelors I majored in political science with the intention of . . . wait for it . . . going to law school.

ironrailsironweights said...

Going to law school is a very bad choice unless you can get into a Top 14 law school ... and even then it's increasingly looking like a mistake. What's surprising is that far too many people continue to flock to law school despite rapidly deteriorating employment prospects and rapidly increasing costs. Or perhaps it's not so surprising: the essential point is that law school is easy, with no math, no science, no computers, all essay-type tests.

Anyone who has the brains to manage a marketable course of study such as engineering or pharmacy is making a world-class mistake by going to law school.

Peter

Donna B. said...

"Going to law school is a very bad choice unless you can get into a Top 14 law school"

eh... baloney.

Balfegor said...

The best advice for those who want to go on to law school is to study something you're very interested in and good at. It will help you get a good GPA, which counts about as much as the LSAT in admissions.

The other advantage, if admissions are competitive, is that an unusual major is probably going to look better to admissions committees than pre-law. Is there a law school applicant more boring than someone who was pre-law who then decided to go to law school? I can't believe there's such a major, in fact, given that there is absolutely no substantive pre-requisite whatsoever to attend law school. You could probably major in interpretive dance and do just fine in law school. Didn't our hostess major in art?

Re: Top 14 law school, I think the issue is really how much you're paying. If you're going to a respectable state school and not taking on huge debt to pay for it, you can make a respectable living providing ordinary services to ordinary people and serving as local counsel to the odd local corporation. The problem is all those mid-ranking schools (and those glorified bar review course "law schools" in California) that hold out the promise that you'll get to work for Wachtell or Cravath after you graduate, and encourage you to take on hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, which you won't be able to pay off, unless you land one of those jobs that pays $160,000 starting salary. That's -- well, maybe not now it isn't, but in general that's been a reasonable expectation for someone who does decently well at a top ranked national law school, but if you're below top 14, only the top of the class is going to have access to those kinds of opportunities. The others are just going to be stuck with crushing debt and lower-paying jobs in government or at regional or local firms.

Seven Machos said...

1. Ironswhatever is full of shit. Law school is a great experience and I would recommend it to everyone. The sucky part is practicing law. And students at "the top 14" will have to do that.

2. In addition to general recessionary malaise, the reason that law school grads are having it particularly hard right now is that law firms (particularly big ones) have priced starting wages way too high. No one just out of law school is worth $160,000 a year and, in fact, many clients are telling their attorneys that they won't pay for what amounts to training. Hence, there's no work.

3. Law school is not easy. It's a crucible type experience the first year, one of the more challenging things you'll undergo. I do agree that engineers have a leg up on law school exams, because they have learned to be problem solvers by nature. English majors are critics.

4. The LSAT is a test that, like the show within the show on Seinfeld, is about nothing. It tests nothing. Apparently proudly.

5. My advice echoes Althouse's: major in something that makes you happy and gets you good grades. Then, take an LSAT prep course and take practice tests over and over until you see that all the problems are variations on the same few nothings.

6. When you get to law school, same thing. Beyond the required courses, take courses that you are genuinely interested in and that you can get good grades in. You'll learn all the rest of it at Bar-Bri.

Balfegor said...

3. Law school is not easy. It's a crucible type experience the first year, one of the more challenging things you'll undergo.

I think people who have this perception are people who have grown up getting all A's, who discover, to their horror, that they can no longer get all A's, because the class is curved, and they're not the smartest ones in it.

If your goal isn't to get all A's, but to get a decent foundational understanding of the material in all your classes and maybe get an A in your favourite classes, it's not a "crucible" at all -- a solid B+ average will require studying, but unless you spent your college years slacking off in every single class and expecting to get A's for your trouble, it shouldn't be that much of a shock. Certainly not a crucible. That, at least, was my experience at a top-5 school.

JAL said...

Unfortunately for other areas of my life, going with the Flow has evolved to include Althouse.

Balfegor said...

That or maybe you all went to law school so many years before I did, that law school really was like that, when you went. If that's the case, well, it had softened up considerably by the early naughts.

JAL said...

And can you give us a phonetic pronunciation of that guy's name?

WV reigg -- German election fixing

Seven Machos said...

Balfegor -- Good for you. And trenchant. For you, it wasn't a crucible. For people like me, who were used to being able to slide by and just kind of turn on when it was necessary as opposed to all the time, it was a crucible.

Anyway, I love this "14" business. As if getting a degree from the 15th law school is not worth it, or the only law school in the state where you will probably practice. It's just detestable snobbery.

I don't practice law. Hate it. But I have a license and I would very much like to face Ironwhatever in court. So next time you are suing someone who is indigent in Illinois, dude, let me know. I'll wipe the floor with you.

holdfast said...

I think people who have this perception are people who have grown up getting all A's, who discover, to their horror, that they can no longer get all A's, because the class is curved, and they're not the smartest ones in it.

Exactly, and then if you can figure out the game a little faster than those sniveling mama's boys, and not let an occasional poor grade throw you off your game, you can rock first year law, and then cruise into a good job.

ironrailsironweights said...

Those who think law school is a good idea should read Big Debt, Small Law. Just make sure you have some antidepressants on hand. Like a full bottle's worth.

--

If you're going to a respectable state school and not taking on huge debt to pay for it, you can make a respectable living providing ordinary services to ordinary people and serving as local counsel to the odd local corporation.

If you're smart enough, which is a big "if," you can save three years and thousands of dollars (even state law schools aren't free) by getting an engineering degree at State U. You'll earn a more-than-respectable living and have all sorts of job opportunities. If your I.Q. isn't quite high enough for engineering, pharmacy is a very good career choice, one that IINM requires one year beyond the bachelor's rather than law school's three years. If that's still too difficult, accounting offers opportunities at least as good as State U. law school, more likely somewhat better.

Peter

Balfegor said...

Anyway, I love this "14" business. As if getting a degree from the 15th law school is not worth it, or the only law school in the state where you will probably practice. It's just detestable snobbery.

It's because even the snobs feel bad about casting Georgetown off into the outer darkness of middle-ranking schools. They've got parvenus like NYU up there in the top 5, but Georgetown, the Ivy league's poor cousin, has dropped out of the top 10.

Seven Machos said...

If you're smart enough, which is a big "if,"

Everyone is smart enough for law school. It's not a matter of intelligence. It's a matter of diligence.

you can save three years and thousands of dollars (even state law schools aren't free) by getting an engineering degree at State U.

Or you can get a law degree at State U. State U. charges for engineering degrees also.

You'll earn a more-than-respectable living and have all sorts of job opportunities.

You won't make $160,000 a year your third year out of undergrad.

If your I.Q. isn't quite high enough for engineering

There's no such thing as IQ. Not everybody likes math.

I don't like this brazen intellectual snobbery.

Balfegor said...

If that's still too difficult, accounting offers opportunities at least as good as State U. law school, more likely somewhat better.

Ye-es . . . you know, I don't think there's a huge overlap between the kinds of people who are happy to go into accounting (people who like numbers) and the people who are happy to go into law (people who like words. And verbal aggression).

I mean, there are a few -- I'm one, I suppose (I love going over audit and accounting records and the GAAS and GAAP literature). And I know people who worked as staff accountants at the big 4 for a few years, then decided to go to law school. But broadly speaking, the people who go to law school are people who wouldn't even be considering careers in accounting. Or engineering, for that matter.

Seven Machos said...

But everybody likes pharmacy. And that's what the world needs, too, more people making pills at the CVS.

Balfegor said...

But everybody likes pharmacy. And that's what the world needs, too, more people making pills at the CVS.

Health care = growth industry!! I mean, our population isn't getting any younger. And (speaking honestly now), I'm frequently amazed at how many pills elderly people eat.

Robert said...

When I took the LSAT (1979) it was mostly a logic test, that is, an I.Q. test. It had a "writing score" component, which I assume could be raised by your college classes. However, the basic score was very much like a traditional I.Q. score and came mostly from your innate ability. It is my understanding that MENSA accepts or did accept LSAT scores as qualifying scores.

I am sure that majors correlate with LSAT scores, but, as others here have stated, I doubt that correlation = causation. More likely, the students who could handle the most difficult majors would also be the students who would score highest on the LSAT.

I was someone who scored fairly high on all sorts of standardized tests. I attribute this in part to the fact that I am an unusually fast reader. Because of this, I have always been able to complete standardized tests more quickly than my friends, and was therefore able to review my answers. Many standardized tests contain multiple paragraphs which must be read so that a series of questions may be asked. I would read such passages, answer the questions I could, and then go back and read it again to answer the questions about which I was unsure. After taking the SAT my friends told be they did not have enough time to do this.

Therefore, I believe that my scores have always been skewed upward by my reading speed. It is good to be a fast reader, but I doubt the makers meant to test for that ability.

Is it not true that LSAT scores traditionally have correlated more closely than college grades with law school grades? Or perhaps only that the combination was a better predictor than either alone? Anyone here know?

David said...

"Pre-law" is a major? What nonsense. What the hell does "pre-law" mean? I blame the nitwits in undergraduate administration for this. History, english, math, physics, biology, political science aren't enough departments? No, let's create something like pre-law, so we have something else to administer.

Seven Machos said...

Well, Robert, I will skip past the hokum about IQ and answer your question:

Is it not true that LSAT scores traditionally have correlated more closely than college grades with law school grades?

It's a bad question. The LSAT doesn't correlate at all with college grades. If it did, why have the test? Just use GPA. The LSAT correlates somewhat better with law school grades. But the correlation isn't very fabulous at all.

One thing that the LSAT does correlate pretty well with is bar passage. The reason for that is that some people are just better at standardized tests. Now, I'm one of those people. Standardized testing has been very, very good to me. Nevertheless, why society continues to reward this group so much more than is reasonable is a huge mystery. It's really a heinous shame.

traditionalguy said...

I see that History and English were number 8 and number 11 and in the top tier. We were counseled to major in one of those two for Law School aspirants in 1963.

Robert said...

Hey, I was not endorsing I.Q. tests, I was just labeling them. Standardized test have probably been as good to me as to you, and I intended to make the point that it is unclear to me what they are testing.

When I took the Bar Exam, back in the dark ages, it was NOT a standardized test here in Indiana. It was two horrific days of writing essay answers as fast as you could.

dbp said...

Seven Machos Said " The LSAT correlates somewhat better with law school grades. But the correlation isn't very fabulous at all."

Maybe this is because people who get better scores go to more selective schools. I would bet that there is a strong correlation between LSAT score and grades within a given school. Or better yet, grades within a course given at a law school, since some courses are bound to be harder than others.

Seven Machos said...

Robert -- Sorry. My misinterpretation.

DBP -- No. Here's what you are missing: The better the school, the better the grades. Everybody at Yale gets an A or a B. Everybody, in every course. Many are not graded. At, say, John Marshall in Chicago, the grading curve is horrendous and very, very few people get an A.

Hence, my argument is even stronger now that I think about it. Because of the nature of curving (the worse the school, the more officious the curve and the fewer good grades available), the fact that the LSAT correlates as weakly as it does with law school grades makes it even crappier.

kentuckyliz said...

There's credential inflation in certain allied medical fields now--PharmD, DPT, etc. These things used to be Bachelor's degrees, then they inflated to Master's degrees, and then doctoral (professional) degrees. It's the guild looking after their own.

Just watch their fortunes plunge when the gummint reimbursement rates decline and they're stuck with a six figure debt and low pay.

renstizi
stimpizi's pal

Robert said...

Thanks. When I made my original reference to "grades", my intention was to speak of class rank, i.e., how a person did relative to fellow students.

My references to I.Q. were only to express my understanding that the basic LSAT score, like an I.Q. score, had very little to do with what you learned in college.

In addition, if correlation does NOT equal causation, and I don't think it does in this case- then it might well be the best course to take courses which require a lot of writing. You are surely going to have to do THAT in law school. My point being that the writing classes will not help or hurt your LSAT score, but they will help you please your law school instructors.

dbp said...

Thanks Seven, I did not realize that the more elite schools inflate their grades more than their lesser rivals.

It is actually a good thing then that the lesser schools don't inflate their grades: The only way to distinguish youself at a lesser school is to finish close to the top of your class.

Balfegor said...

The better the school, the better the grades. Everybody at Yale gets an A or a B. Everybody, in every course. Many are not graded.

Ohohoh -- haven't you heard? none of them are graded. At least, not normally.

Seven Machos said...

My wife (until Freeman Hunt comes to her senses) works at a big firm. She says that the few younger hires who come in from schools with lesser reputations are invariably awesome, while most of those who come in from the national powerhouses are lazy, intellectually shallow, and not diligent. Take that for what it's worth.

Also, Robert: I believe the Indiana bar is still essay hell.

Balfegor said...

When I took the Bar Exam, back in the dark ages, it was NOT a standardized test here in Indiana. It was two horrific days of writing essay answers as fast as you could.

In most places, I think it's now one day of multiple choice, and one day of essays. In California, it's one day of multiple choice and two days of essays. But either way, it's still a standardised exam, in the traditional sense. The earliest standardised exams were the civil service examinations introduced in Imperial China, and those weren't any less standardised for having been essay questions.

Seven Machos said...

Balfegor -- That's actually what I thought. I was hedging my bets because I didn't want to overstate my case.

dbp said...

I would still bet that there is a stronger correlation between LSAT score and grades within a given school than looking across different schools. This would eliminate the variations in grade inflation.

This also points to the need for standard tests. If we relied only on GPA then every undergrad school would have all the more reason to inflate their grades. This would be helped somewhat by class ranking but even there, some departments would attract students by having a reputation for high grades.

Seven Machos said...

I don't disagree that there is a need for standardized tests. The reasons you state are certainly valid. Also, there is the egalitarian issue. A poor kid from Podunk should be able to compete on a level playing field with a kid from Andover.

The problem isn't standardized testing. The problem is the content of our standardized tests. It's awful. The LSAT and its nothingness is perhaps the worst offender.

Also, addressing another comment, law school is about problem solving, not writing. I'm a pretty good writer, but it didn't help me on law school exams. Eloquence and spelling will get you very little in law school.

Robert said...

Hmmm, I am not arguing with you here, but what I took in 1982 does not fit the definitions of "standardized test" very well. Certainly, it was not a multiple choice test, and it was not graded in a particularly objective manner. The Indiana test was not the same, or even particularly similar, from year to year. However, in the sense that many people took the same test and the testors tried to grade it in a standard manner, I suppose it was a standarized test.

I have had cancer surgery and I have taken the Indiana Bar Exam. Given the choice of one or the other, I would rather have the surgery again. Well, it is a close question, anyway, heheheh.

Seven Machos said...

Robert -- I think Indiana is a bit of an outlier.

Consider Illinois. The part of the test that is only Illinois is (or was when I took the test) a series of softballs that are so easy I remember grinning about. The rest of it is the Multi-state: six essays (none too hard) and something like 200 multiple-choice questions...that are very similar to your basic standardized test.

To your health...

Robert said...

Wow, SM, I can't agree with you there. If two students have the same substantive content on a law school final exam, you don't think the better writer will receive a better grade?

Well, if nothing else, my good grade in legal writing and research first year was entirely attributable to Dr. Sedlack's freshman Comp. class at dear old DePauw.

Seven Machos said...

Robert -- You are assuming that the substantive content is the same. It's not.

Substantive content and bad writing beats poor content and good writing in law school every time. Sure, substantive writing and good writing is better.

That D I got in criminal law that killed my GPA for a whole year? The writing was great, dude.

Robert said...

Indubitably.

ironrailsironweights said...

you can save three years and thousands of dollars (even state law schools aren't free) by getting an engineering degree at State U.

Or you can get a law degree at State U. State U. charges for engineering degrees also.

Note the "three years" part. Getting law degree requires three more years than getting the engineering degree. Even if the two degrees paid the same, those choosing law would lose three years' income.

Peter

Seven Machos said...

What percentage of engineering students graduate in four years?

What percentage of the people to whom you suggest this have any interest in engineering?

A chemical engineer starts out at about $40,000. $40,000 x 3 = $120,000. That's a fairly reasonable starting salary for a law grad.

The chicks in law school are much, much hotter.

QED.

Ah Pooh said...

Generally a "practicing engineer" needs a Masters degree.

ironrailsironweights said...

A chemical engineer starts out at about $40,000. $40,000 x 3 = $120,000. That's a fairly reasonable starting salary for a law grad.

An estimate from early 2006 cited an average starting salary of $55.9K, the highest of any undergraduate degree.

Only the top law grads, those mainly from Top 14 schools who go into BIGLAW, start out at $120K. And that part of the legal field has been suffering mightily in this recession.

Of course it's all irrelevant, as the vast majority of law students could not make it through a chemical engineering major no matter how diligently they tried. They wouldn't have the innate math ability.

Peter

Seven Machos said...

So Ironwhatever's point is really that engineers are so much better than law students because they have to work harder to get their degrees, even though you can party and fuck your way through law school and finish at the bottom at a crappy school and still make more money than a chemical engineer from Day One.

Fabulous. What's this got to do with LSAT scores?

somefeller said...

So Ironwhatever's point is really that engineers are so much better than law students because they have to work harder to get their degrees, even though you can party and fuck your way through law school and finish at the bottom at a crappy school and still make more money than a chemical engineer from Day One.

I certainly don't agree with the idea that engineering students are better than law students. And that's not just because I'm a lawyer. I think iron's point is that many people are conned into thinking that it's a good idea to take out a lot of debt to go to law school, with the idea that they will be making six figure salaries when they get out of law school. This is particularly true in the Northeast, from what I've seen.

This is a bad idea. Most people do not make such high salaries coming right out of law school, unless they (a) go to top-tier law schools (though beyond the silly "top-14" line he is suggesting - see the incomes from graduates from the University of Texas School of Law or similar schools as an example) or (b) graduate in the top 5% of their class. It's item (b) that's the problem. Many people, including many very smart people, take out a lot of debt to go to law school and don't make a whole lot more money than they would had they just stayed in the work force, and many law schools (particularly lower-tier private schools) encourage that sort of thing. This isn't a good bet, and it's wise to warn people away from it.

If debt isn't a problem, because of rich parents or really inexpensive local schools, then law school is a good bet, regardless of the "tier" of the school, particularly if the inexpensive local school is a state school where you want to practice. But if debt levels of $100,000 or more are part of the deal, it's not a good bet, unless you are going to a school where your class rank isn't a big issue of concern because it's top-tier. Everyone goes into law school thinking they will be in that top percentile. By definition, most won't, and that makes it a bad bet if you are betting with loans from others.

somefeller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
somefeller said...

Also, a commenter at volokh.com had a good observation regarding majors on this topic. Universities that offer pre-law or criminal justice as majors usually aren't as strong academically, so the tie-in between such majors and lower performance may say more about the school than the major. Speaking personally, I never thought pre-law was an actual major, until I found that out recently. I just thought it was just more of a general idea for structuring one's undergraduate time, namely that a person who wanted to go to law school might want to do pre-law things, like major in political science or history, take some logic classes, and join a pre-law society, in the latter case if they were really bored and looking to meet some other ambitious people.

Ben said...

Most of the schools with the highest average LSAT scores for graduates (Yale, Harvard, Princeton, MIT, etc) don't even have Criminal Justice or Pre-Law majors.

Ben said...

Whoever it is that said LSAT doesn't correlate with college GPA (otherwise, why not just use GPA?), I think you misunderstand the concept of correlation. All that reasoning proves is that the correlation between the two is less than 1. And you're crazy if you think it's anywhere near 0.

Prosecutorial Indiscretion said...

I adore you, Ann, but this is awful advice. The best advice to prospective law students right now is *don't go to law school!* Unless you burn with an insatiable urge to get into court, pee gasoline on your enemies, and start flinging matches, you are better off avoiding that debt and doing something more spiritually fulfilling. I've been told by a number of law school friends that I am the only one among us who professes to be really happy with his job, and we all left there with ~$150,000 in debt. Three years of your life is a long time, even if you can get a scholarship to cover tuition, and the legal job market sucks to a near-hilarious degree. It's a really bad time to be a law student, and an even worse time to be a young law school graduate.

That said, I kicked some LSAT butt with my philosophy background; the formal logic classes certainly helped. But I am sure LSAT takers are best off when they come from a hard-core quant background (and those guys have many better ways of contributing to society).

vw: ampasts - mornings before

PatCA said...

I was an art major and got a very high score on the LSAT. Never went to law school, though. Too much of an artist, I guess.

Seven Machos said...

Yes, Ben, correlation occurs between 0 and 1. Good.

The correlation between college grades and LSAT scores is not meaningful in any way.

buster said...

I served on a law school admissions committee in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The LSAT was a good predictor of performance in the first year of law school. It didn't predict performance over three years, or on the bar exam.

Students at top-ranked schools do better on bar exams than students at less prominent schools, but that may have more to do with the education they receive than LSAT scores. It's true, of course, that students at the top schools are on average more accomplished academically and have higher LSAT scores than those at the lesser schools, so in that limited sense there is a correlation between bar exam performance and LSAT score.

The admissions committee on which I served did not consider LSAT and undergraduate GPA separately. The Educational Testing Service, which administered the LSAT, would apply a formula that combined the LSAT score and GPA to produce a number that enabled the committee to rank all the applicants. The formula assigned different weights to GPAs according to the applicant's undergraduate school. Stanford, for example, had a reputation for severe grade inflation, so a 3.5 GPA from Stanford counted for less than the same GPA from Yale or the University of Chicago. There was no weighting of different majors within the undergraduate school.

The ETS formula was custom-designed for each law school that used it, so the wights assigned to the various undergraduate colleges were not necessarily the same. Our formula reflected the faculty's policy of attracting students from particular regions of the country or particular schools in the hope of improving the law school's national reputation.

The law school in question is in the top 20 in the US News rankings and I think that reliance on a ETS formula was standard practice for most schools that competed for students nationally. I left law teaching long ago, so I don't know if the practice is still in effect.

Supremacy Claus said...

Here are suggested pre-law courses that would improve the quality of and respect for the profession.

http://supremacyclaus.blogspot.com/2009/04/pre-law-courses-would-help.html

Beyond these courses, the student should try to learn something technical, anything really, nursing, engineering, computer science, accounting, physics, chemistry.

They should avoid majoring in English, in political science, and in history. They would just be getting a baby version of what lies ahead in law school.