Predicting Lawyer Effectiveness: Broadening the Basis for Law School Admission Decisions


  • Funding for this research was received from Berkeley Law School, and also from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). The opinions and conclusions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the positions or policy of the LSAC. Funding assistance was also provided by the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, the Hanson Bridgett law firm, Drucilla Stender Ramey, and Martha Faye Africa. We were ably assisted by graduate student researchers Jamie Clark and Eunice Chang, Ph.D. as well as by law students including William Kidder, Nicole Thomas, Chhunny Chhean, Sarah London, Aubrie Dillon, Sarah Sobrahoff, and Shelby Myers. We are grateful to Deans Herma Hill Kay and Chris Edley of Berkeley, and to Associate Dean Shauna Marshall of Hastings College of the Law for their support of this study. Many staff and administrators at both schools provided vital help. We are especially grateful to Louise Epstein, Joey Plaster, and Ed Tom at Berkeley; and Gina Barnett at Hastings for their hard work facilitating the study. We have benefited from the commentary and suggestions of participants in many faculty workshops, conference settings, and bar gatherings over the years. We are also indebted to the members of our National Advisory Board for nearly eight years of service: Kelly Brown, David Chambers, Phoebe Haddon, Thelton Henderson, Leaetta Hough, Robert Nelson, Beth Cobb O'Neil, Pilar Ossorio, James Outtz, Paul Sackett, and Garner Weng.

Marjorie M. Shultz is Professor of Law (Emerita) at Berkeley Law School, University of California at Berkeley. As contact author, Professor Shultz can be reached at Telephone: (510) 642-1921, Fax: (510) 642-3856, or Postal address is Berkeley Law School, University of California; Berkeley, CA, 94720.

Sheldon Zedeck is Professor of the Graduate School (Emeritus), Department of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley,


Law school admission decisions are heavily influenced by a student's undergraduate grade point average (UGPA) and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score. These measures, although predictive of first-year law school grades, make no effort to predict professional competence and, for the most part, they do not. These measures also create adverse impact on applicants from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. This article describes the rationale for and process by which we explored new tests to predict lawyer effectiveness rather than law school grades and reports results of a multiyear empirical study involving over 3,000 graduates from Berkeley Law School and Hastings College of the Law. Tests measuring personality constructs, interests, values, and judgment predicted lawyering competency but had little or no adverse impact on underrepresented minority applicants. Combined with the LSAT and UGPA, these broader tests could assess law applicants on the basis both of projected professional effectiveness and academic indicators.