February 2023

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The LSAT and Its Lack of Relevance to Lawyering

In November 2022, the American Bar Association voted to eliminate the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) requirement for law schools, effective 2025.

Matt Spencer

As with many debates, there are competing views. Those in favor of keeping the LSAT requirement predict that law schools may be less willing to take chances on students who don’t have high undergraduate grade point averages (GPAs) due to extenuating circumstances. Students who work, care for children and other family members, or experience loss during their schooling may be left out of the process without another metric signaling their high potential — ultimately harming the industry’s diversity.

Those against the requirement cite the adverse impact caused by the exam, saying it has a direct impact on the lack of diversity in the industry. The average score for Black test takers is 142 out of 180, compared to 153 for White and Asian students (most law schools require a score of 150, with that number rising to 170 for the top 14).


Both perspectives can be true, as it’s easy to imagine a world in which a low LSAT score hurts underrepresented students and a high LSAT score helps others. However, many in the LSAT-defender camp tout the exam as the “single best predictor for law school success” and therefore an objective way to level the playing field for students from different backgrounds.

To its credit, the LSAT is meant to predict how well a student will perform during their first year in law school. And perhaps more than any other available metric, the LSAT is best at doing this. In fact, according to its creators, the LSAT has a predictive validity of 60%. In psychometrics, predictive validity is the extent to which a test score accurately predicts future outcomes — meaning 60% of the time, a student’s score correlates to how they perform during their first year of law school, with performance being measured by GPA.

But what exactly does GPA predict? Does a law student’s first-year GPA have any bearing on how well they perform as an attorney — the ultimate objective of going to law school?

We don’t find this to be the case. When looking at on-the-job performance, our internal data — based on thousands of reports from actual attorneys at some of the top law firms — tells us that GPA on average has a 2.2% predictive validity. Meaning that GPA, the thing that the LSAT is meant to predict, explains very little. When we look directly at the LSAT, we see an even smaller correlation of 0.9% on average.


Many attorneys acknowledge that traditional metrics like the LSAT and law school GPA do not correlate to what it’s like to successfully analyze or practice the law. These measurements often leave underrepresented candidates behind. According to some researchers, the “cultural specificity” of the measured intelligence in these tests makes them biased toward the environments in which they were developed — namely homogenous and White institutions. Not to mention these competencies have a significant amount of relevance to performance in the actual job. However, without them, attorneys are forced to rely on even more biased or circumstantial data points such as law school rank, referrals or prior work experience.

“But what exactly does GPA predict? Does a law student’s first-year GPA have any bearing on how well they perform as an attorney — the ultimate objective of going to law school?”  

When we talk about high performers in the field, we often reference certain traits that make them notable: their grit, analytical thinking, compassion, their ability to persuade, among others. If these are the types of competencies that make attorneys successful, why don’t law schools or law firms attempt to measure them when making their determinations of qualified candidates?

It is entirely possible to define and empirically measure these sorts of traits and competencies. By understanding what factors are most important for success, assessing those traits throughout the hiring (or admission) process, and knowing how to weigh each factor appropriately, more accurate and equitable decisions can be made.

One approach? Psychometric and cognitive competencies, as they result in less bias and more accurate results. Scientific research shows that these assessments, developed according to modern professional standards, can accurately predict which job applicants are most likely to become successful performers.

Understanding someone’s personality and values often takes time, and the ability to assess these traits in advance often leads to better matches between person and place. In fact, we have found these metrics to predict future success seven times more accurately than traditional measures like GPA, LSAT scores and law school rank combined.

Examining these deep-level traits provide a much more accurate and equalizing approach to making selection decisions. Competencies associated with problem-solving, collaboration, effort, commitment, responsibility, ambition, independence and task-focus are some of the most predictive of high future performance. For decades, resumes and standardized test scores have served as the universal metrics on which candidates were evaluated for both law schools and subsequently for jobs at law firms. Technology, however, has given us an opportunity to rethink the standards by which we evaluate candidates to create a more effective and equitable process.