Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Nancy is right that any assessment of student quality should include dimensions of character and ethic that GPA and LSAT scores do not reflect. The ideal of law student "quality" like that of "diversity" must be broad enough to encompass attributes that make one person more valuable than another as we deploy scarce resources toward achievement of a worthy goal.
We must be at least equally sensitive to the ways that consideration of "soft" personal attributes may provide cover for objectives other than an accurate assessment of student quality. Consider the typical law school admissions process by which faculty members review student application files to predict who will succeed in law school and the profession. Each professor idiosyncratically considers a host of information about the candidate including letters of recommendation, student essays and interviews, and pressure from interested persons with influence. Although they are imperfect, GPA and LSAT provide information about academic achievement, a personal attribute that is unquestionably relevant to predictions of a student's future performance. Some of the soft information solicited and evaluated in law school admissions processes seems patently pointed at social status ("who yo daddy?") and unrelated to quality as Nancy describes it. I worry that narrow focus on GPA and LSAT scores, leaves some talented students out of luck. But I worry even more that assessment of soft information under the guise of a search for "quality" leaves students without saavy as to how to present themselves to an admissions committee, display their political connections or reveal their family's development potential out of the legal profession. When that happens, we all lose.