In keeping with my back to first principles theme, I have been wondering for some time what the Billy Beane approach to law school admissions would be. We know that Billy Beane's principal contribution to running a baseball team was to discover underutilized statistics that were better at predicting big league performance than those being used by other clubs. (For example, Beane was one of the first general managers to make regular use of OPS.) In this article, Beane describes his project as essentially arbitrage for baseball players:
"Arbitrage. We don't use that word too much in baseball, but that's what it is. In a market where people are competing for scarce assets -- for us, it's players or, really, the things that players can do -- there's always going to be some inefficiency. We're always going to have to find that dark corner, the stone that hasn't been turned over."By looking under different rocks than the other GMs in the league, Beane was able to gain a competitive advantage and to sign promising players overlooked by others.
Are there similar, underused criteria for admission to law school? We know that most schools use some combination of LSAT score and undergraduate GPA (UGPA) as the primary factors in their admissions, largely because these factors are agreed to be less bad at predicting law school performance than others. If a school could find other criteria that worked even marginally better than LSAT and UGPA, they would be at a huge competitive advantage with regard to admissions.
My colleague Joyce Sterling and I spent some time looking for these factors a few years ago. We ran a multivariate regression on a number of possible admissions criteria -- undergraduate major, presence of an advanced degree, work experience since undergraduate graduation -- to determine whether we could find the OPS of law school admissions. We found nothing that correlate but if we had I sure wouldn't share it here. If everyone picks their players based on OPS, the advantage is lost.