December 18, 2008

Negotiation Skills on the LSAT?

By Andrea Schneider

Berkeley researchers have found new tests that can better predict success in the practice of law than the LSAT.  Not suprisingly to those of us in the dispute resolution field, the skills missed by the LSAT but needed for successful practice include creativity, negotiation, and problem-solving.  Berkeley law professor Marjorie Shultz and Berkeley psychology professor Sheldon Zedeck have published their findings on the law school web site

As Law.com has reported,

Berkeley law school Dean Christopher Edley posted a message to a listserv for deans at ABA-accredited law schools highlighting some of the findings, and asking for support in building a case to expand the project.

The research so far, in which more than 7,000 attorneys have participated, investigated whether lawyer effectiveness can be predicted at the time of application to law school, Edley wrote in his memo to deans. “Building on tools developed for employment selection, the research conducted at the Berkeley and Hastings law schools identified and validated a number of test methods that could be added to current admission decision-making,” Edley wrote.

Jeffrey Brand, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law, said that the research is welcome. Brand, who read Edley’s message but has yet to read through the underlying data, said that passing the bar exam is clearly important.

“But we also need lawyers with the kind of skill sets that the world needs — like empathy, persuasiveness and the willingness to have the courage to do the right thing — which the LSAT does not measure,” Brand said. The timing is especially ripe, he added, in light of all the rankings that emphasize the LSAT, “which, even though we know it’s got its limitations, becomes all powerful.”

I am looking forward to hearing more about these tests and how we can incorporate them in law school admissions and education.  The research at Berkeley also supports much of the the Carnegie report suggesting that more problem-solving skills be taught at law school.

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