Tuesday, August 05, 2008

One L

Right now I'm reading One L, the story of Scott Turow's first year at Harvard Law School. The orientation packet that Alabama sent out before my first year recommended that we read it, and although I half-heartedly looked through a few bookstores for it, I never tracked it down until now.

I can't decide if it really is a good idea to try and prepare yourself for an experience like the first year of law school. On one hand, knowing what's coming theoretically gives you the advantage of being able to prepare for it. On the other hand, the anxiety of knowing what you're about to go through could work against you. I came into law school painfully ignorant. I specifically remember saying to myself, "Oh, it's just school. You're good at school; you've done school all your life. How hard could it be?"

I was so naive.

Anyway, here's an interesting passage from the book:

Right now admissions at most American law schools are based on predictions of how well applicants will do in school, which is to say how high they will rank on exams. Those forecasts, based on statistical formulae that combine LSAT scores and college grades, are often quite accurate. But that amounts only to saying that American law schools admit people who will be good test-takers rather than good attorneys. Correlations between exam success and worthwhile achievements in the practice of law are speculative at best. Until that connection is better established, the narrow and arbitrary nature of exams will continue to dictate a narrow and arbitrary means of selection for training for the bar. And that is a peculiar state of affairs for a profession and an education which claim to concern themselves with rationality and fairness.

I'm not sure I fully agree with Turow here, but it is something to think about. How can we make law school exams better predictors of how great an attorney a person will turn out to be, rather than how great a student that person is now?


Anonymous said...

there's really no way to do that. I agree that LSAT and GPA are bogus predictors of success in law school - I did poorly on LSAT but graduated near the top of my class in law school. But, as for determining whether someone will be a good lawyer based off of law school exams, in my opinion, makes some sense. I know all the people at the top of my class and on law review. We were all there, not necessarily because we were the smartest kids in the class, but because we cared enough about grades and doing well that we worked our tails off. I think that any firm looking to hire someone will naturally want those at the top of the class because they know they work hard and struggle to learn things that are not easily grasped. This is what the practice of law will be. I don't have a clue what I will end up being asked to do - but I'm not worried about it because I'll work hard and learn what it is and will likely do it well. That's something that the grades can show you.

Anonymous said...

I happen to agree with the previous commenter - I don't know anyone who would actively pick an attorney that graduated in the bottom 50 or 75% of their class. I also think it is an indication of aptitude - the reality is, while it is really hard to graduate in the top 5-10% of your law school class, it's very easy to not fail out of law school and graduate with an average GPA / ranking.