It’s All Coming Together

Long-time Best Practices/Carnegie groupies or aficionados will note that one of other ongoing projects regarding legal education has been the research that Marjorie Shultz and Sheldon Zedeck of Berkeley have been conducting on what skills/qualities lawyers need.  They presented an early version of their findings at an AALS annual meeting several years ago.  Today (3-11-09), the NYT reported on their research.  The article is available at


Shultz and Zedeck surveyed Berkeley alumni and others to identify what characteristics they looked for in a good lawyer.  According to the article, “The survey produced a list of 26 characteristics, or ‘effectiveness factors,’ like the ability to write, manage stress, listen, research the law and solve problems.” They then designed a test to predict those characteristics.  They believe their test predicts “being a good lawyer” better than does the LSAT though does no better than the LSAT in predicting law school performance.  The study, sponsored by LSAC, will next branch out to cover more people than the Berkeley alumni.


It is interesting to note how many of the above qualities relate to things we teach in our clinical programs.  While the authors seemed to be focused mostly on developing their alternative test (at least as the article reported), the findings have clear implications for legal education in general, clinical education in particular, and, of course, for implementation of Best Practices.


We’re on the cusp of change, no doubt.


–Bob Dinerstein


One Response

  1. The Shultz and Zedeck study that Bob writes about has the potential to transform legal education. Shultz and Zedeck do not call for replacing the LSAT, but to supplement it with tests that will provide much more information about people applying to law schools — information that is more related to how they might perform as lawyers.

    The 100 page report, executive summary, and appendixes are posted at

    Happily, one of their conclusions [#8, p. 59] is that the new predictors showed no practical differences among race or gender subgroups.

    On page 82, they discuss reasons to add professional predictors: “Scholars and commentors on legal education have urged that the current criteria of merit for admission to law school, expecially the LSAT, are too narrow in aim. Many would agree that assessing professional potential before admission would be a good idea, but no one has had a method to propose. Indeed, the prevailing view has been that the task is so difficult as to be flatly impossible. The research we report here explored ways to assess and predict many dimensions of professional effectiveness and has yielded a rich harvest.”

    Hopefully, the LSAC will move quickly to more fully explore the feasibility of predicting more dimensions of professional effectiveness. At the same time, law teachers, expecially those who teach professional skills and values, should explore the implications of the Shulz/Zedeck work for assessing professional effectiveness.

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