Sometimes in the flurry of law school admissions, students forget that eventually they will be in law school. What then? We've got tons of advice on what to expect in law school, from the importance of first-year grades to kickstarting a rewarding legal career. And that's just for starters.
LSAT scores can predict the future. Generally, the higher the LSAT score, the better the student performs in law school. That is one reason why law schools might accord the LSAT score more weight than any other aspect of the law school application—even though the exam is completed in three hours, compared to the four years of term papers and pizza-fueled all-nighters it typically takes to earn an undergraduate GPA. Because the LSAT measures the same cognitive skills routinely tested in the law school curriculum, a high LSAT score often translates into law school success.*
But law school lasts only three years. In addition to signaling the conclusion of Tuesday afternoon "Grey's Anatomy" DVD viewing parties, entering the real word is, for many graduates, synonymous with obtaining an associate position at a law firm. That, in turn, begs the question: Does a high LSAT score also bear on future law firm success?
The answer is yes.
The LSAT is designed to test reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical reasoning. Four years of law firm life taught me—in addition to not answering my phone at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday—that lawyers constantly utilize those analytical and critical reading skills. Whether holed up in a musty conference room reviewing documents for privileged communications or deposing an adversary's star witness in a federal action, the skills are surprisingly correlative.
The LSAT's reading comprehension section tests one's ability to rapidly read a significant amount of text, while remaining focused on the salient issues and dodging the proverbial red herrings. Bread and butter associate work—performing legal research and drafting memoranda—requires wading through countless cases to determine whether they support, undermine, or have no bearing on the specific issue in question. The ability to distinguish the material from the irrelevant is an indispensable skill. For instance, the difference between a "California resident" and a "California domiciliary" can have important ramifications, though the difference might seem negligible.
The logical reasoning portion of the LSAT examines one's capacity to evaluate arguments and identify assumptions and other logical infirmities. This skill set is especially valuable for effective brief writing (which, incidentally, often accounts for a significant share of a firm's litigation practice). Logically sound arguments are premised on syllogistic analysis, and successful opposition papers bring to light an adversary's illogical conclusions. Who knew that correctly inferring a carbonic acid mixture formed the Yucatan's stalagmites and stalactites would lead to a winning summary judgment motion?
Finally, the LSAT's analytical reasoning or "logic games" section measures the test taker's ability to manage and draw conclusions from various relationships.
Because these skills are arguably more closely linked to "big picture" litigation strategy or transactional negotiation tactics, associates in large firms may have less opportunity to utilize them early in their practice. That said, partners across the law firm spectrum consistently rely on associates and expect them to possess a thorough understanding of the relevant parties, issues, deadlines, etc. The capacity to simultaneously consider multiple moving targets is therefore similarly essential to thriving in a law firm environment. So remember, when you're racking your brain trying to figure out whether Colin paddled the kayak in Mexico with Rachel or the canoe in Canada with Adam and Hayley, you're preparing yourself for that busy (read, scattered) partner's rapid, on-the-spot questions.
What is the logical conclusion to be drawn? Preparing for the LSAT can earn you law school admission now and real world success later. And don't worry; Dr. McDreamy is just as good on Saturdays.
*See http://www.law.ucla.edu/sander/, "A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools" for a discussion of the predictive nature of LSAT scores and how much they are weighted in the admissions process.
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