Students planning on going to law school soon realize the importance of the LSAT, an exam designed to test the legal reasoning skills of all applicants to accredited U.S. law schools. A student’s LSAT score largely defines law school options and merit-based scholarship opportunities for would-be lawyers. But, how well does the LSAT correlate with future success?
To answer that question, I turned to the experts. Mark Sacks, owner of ScoreItUp LSAT Prep, is a Harvard Law School graduate who has taught law courses at top Universities, developed a highly successful LSAT Prep company, and is an accomplished trial lawyer. Sacks has an extraordinary amount of experience with the LSAT, having taught LSAT Prep since before he even went to law school. When speaking to him, his affinity and deep understanding of the challenging exam quickly becomes apparent.
It also is no surprise why Sacks is so popular as a LSAT instructor and professor – he has an engaging and energetic personality, and an unusual ability to simplify complex ideas. Students marvel at the clarity of his instruction, often highlighted through storytelling of cases from his own inspiring professional career. And the results of his students, as reflected on his company’s website, are genuinely impressive.
Using LSAT Scores To Predict The Future
No credible source, including Sacks, would question the LSAT’s importance to law school applications. In fact, the LSAT is generally considered the single most important part of a pre-law student’s application. However, correlating LSAT scores and future success can be challenging due to the ambiguity of the meaning of “success.” “Attempting to correlate the LSAT with future success as a lawyer is tricky,” Sacks states. “There probably is a correlation between one’s LSAT score and future income, and the LSAT does a fair job of predicting first year grades in law school. But success as a lawyer is a broader and more subjective concept.”
A recent study published in the New York Times echoes Sacks’ statements, indicating the relationship between a lawyer’s income and their happiness can sometimes be murky. The reason may be that “success” as a lawyer is much more complex than just how much money one makes. Money is a factor, but a sense of accomplishment, respect from one’s peers, and feeling passionate about one’s work typically are at least as meaningful to lawyers’ internal feeling of success as their take-home pay.
So does a high LSAT score suggest one is more likely to succeed (however one defines that term) as a lawyer? It seems logical that having the intellectual horsepower to succeed on the LSAT is likely to be a benefit throughout one’s career. In addition, the law school that a student attends – which is influenced heavily by one’s LSAT score – can impact one’s future. But it is equally clear that other factors also play a part. “Having the legal reasoning skills tested on the LSAT certainly can be helpful to a lawyer,” Sacks states matter-of-factly. “However, I also have seen a lot of people who weren’t great LSAT scorers but who became phenomenal lawyers.”
How Students With Weaker LSAT Scores Achieve Future Success
On its website, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) describes the connection between the legal reasoning skills tested on the LSAT and those used in law school and the practice of law. So, considering the emphasis that law schools place on the LSAT, how do lawyers who may not excel on the LSAT succeed? Sacks has a straightforward answer to that question: “The traits that I most commonly see in these lawyers include passion, a strong work ethic, and/or good people skills – what we sometimes refer to as ‘emotional intelligence.’ Other times they have the aptitude to be an excellent lawyer but they just aren’t great test-takers, or struggled with a portion of the LSAT.” Sacks’ empirical observations are corroborated by a study conducted by Marjorie M. Schultz and Sheldon Zedeck, two professors at University of California at Berkeley. In the study, the professors identified several skills that were important to lawyer effectiveness: i.e. the ability to write, speak, and listen effectively, the ability to feel empathy for others, and passion for one’s work.
Capitalize On One’s Strengths, Improve One’s Weaknesses
The findings of these professional and academic experts suggest that one does not need to be born with exceptional logic skills, emotional intelligence, passion and a tireless work ethic. “We all are stronger in some areas than others – the key is learning how to capitalize on the skills you do possess, and having the desire to improve the ones that may come less naturally to you,” Sacks astutely observes. What should aspiring lawyers-to-be think about now? The first step, of course, is getting into law school. Primarily, that includes doing as well on the LSAT as possible, and keeping an undergraduate GPA as high as possible. A strong LSAT score can do a lot to make up for weaker grades, and vice versa. Putting in that time and effort now – particularly on the LSAT – can pay off significantly throughout one’s life.
As for the connection between LSAT scores and future success? One thing that comes across clearly from speaking with the experts is that the exam is critically important for getting into one’s top choice of law schools, and that by itself can be important to a law student’s future. But after an applicant is accepted, other factors also loom large in predicting future “success.”
About Mark Sacks and ScoreItUp LSAT Prep
Mark Sacks is a Harvard Law School graduate, UC Irvine Lecturer, and the founder and lead instructor of ScoreItUp LSAT Prep. Sacks set a world record by personally coaching multiple students to perfect 180 LSAT scores in one year – the only known time that has been done in LSAT history. ScoreItUp offers classroom instruction (in Orange County, CA) and online instruction (available worldwide) designed to improve LSAT scores. ScoreItUp also offers individual LSAT Prep tutoring and/or assistance with law school applications and personal statements.
For more information about Mark Sacks or ScoreItUp, visit the website at: http://ScoreItUp.com. Or, call (949) 355-1413.