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May 21, 2014

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JM

How can these plaintiffs win against LSAC, yet every lawsuit against schools for fraud and misrepresentation cannot get past a motion to dismiss? I am all for disability accomodation, but the timed aspect of the LSAT is a huge component of that test. I think the LSAC was right to be skeptical of people submitting requests for accomdations, and that only 1% or so of the testing population should receive them.

anonanon

What are all the plaintiffs going to do once it comes to taking the bar exam? I expect many state bars won't be so accommodating. More lawsuits, I guess. Or maybe more student loan dollars is the only real point.

AnonR

I think it was fully appropriate for the LSAC to mark which students were given extra time on the LSAT. The LSAT is frequently referred to as a test where you can get a near perfect score given unlimited time (particularly on the logic games) and part of the difficulty of the test *is* in the limited time that is given. Since the accommodations cannot be perfectly tailored to each student's disability (should a person with more severe dyslexia be given an extra 10, 7, or 20 minutes compared to a person with less severe dyslexia, and how does this compare to a person who has mild, medium, or severe ADHD), it was appropriate for the LSAT to just give a standard amount of extra time and mark that on the score. Now, it is possible that someone who only has a very small disability in attention, and one that is managed well with medication, will have a significant time advantage over other test takers, thereby inflating their score.

In addition, since we know that disability diagnoses that affect cognition, such as dyslexia or attention disorders, are significantly more prevalent among more affluent and less racially diverse students (either because they have the resources to see doctors that will get those diagnoses, or because the parents will find a doctor that is willing to give them that diagnosis to get extra accommodations), this will perpetuate and exacerbate the racial and affluence disparity on the LSAT to the detriment of those that cannot get these diagnoses.

Finally, having served on the admissions committee of my law school, the concern that this "identified to law schools that a test taker had a disability" seems misplaced. Many, many students were happy to self identify a disability, diagnosed or not, in their personal statement or optional statement to explain low test scores, low GPAs, or just to add "hardship" to their application. The idea that this was going to be a cause for law schools to discriminate *against* these students seems far fetched.

All in all, a decision that will make the application process even more unfair, for little benefit.

Bill Turnier

Most educational psychologists will tell you that if time is a factor in an exam, it is indicative of poor test design. If time becomes a factor in any of my exams, I know that I administered a poorly designed exam and it is my fault.

Ham Sullivan

Most practicing lawyers will tell you that being able to work effectively under difficult time constraints is an essential part of the job.

anon

Ham

Absolutely. The Bar exam is timed, for obvious reasons.

Bill, why not just give a take home, open book exam, and let the students have a month or so to complete it? Isn't that how a lawyer is expected to function?

I'm quite sure that "educational psychologists" (who, obviously, know far more about practicing law and the necessary abilities associated with, e.g., APPEARING IN COURT) would say the month long take home would be far less stressful.

Along those lines, can you name (honor system now, no Googling) ONE "educational psychologist" who has studied law and legal practice, conducted a peer reviewed study and concluded that any exam in law school wherein "time is a factor" is poorly designed (leaving aside, every Bar exam in the country).

Just one credible, peer reviewed study, please.

JM

Bill, if what you say is true (and I'm not sure that it is), then everyone should get extended time. It just makes no sense to have some test takers get additional time on an exam for a disability. Their own room? Sure. Longer breaks between sections? Sure. More time to answer questions? Absolutely not.

anon

I could see, for example, allowing more time to answer if a person has lost the ability to see. My point wouldn't be that under NO circumstances should any accommodation be allowed.

But Bill took the point way to far. To say that any exam where "time is a factor" is poorly designed is patently untrue, and there are no credible "educational psychologists" who would say any such thing.

Bill Turnier

I do not know how many of the above with anonymous names or "pen pall" names actually teach in law schools. Unless you sign with your real name, please do not respond to what I say. To the real teachers out there, I would like to ask you what you view as your role in your daily teaching activities: (1) teaching substance and skills, or (2) teaching your students speed skills as well as teaching substance and skills. If you picked (2), I would like you to tell us what you do to impart speed skills.

Next, speed is important for large law firms, I spent a number of years at one. At small firms or in solo practices, it is far less important. I view my job as teaching substantive law and legal skills to my students. I do not view my job or my exams as critical to helping large firms winnow out those who would not meet their standards for speed. Those of my students who are able to absorb what I teach, but do not operate at breakneck speed, Will not find positions in big law firms. They can lead happy productive lives in smaller firms where knowledge absent speed is what is valued.

Someone asked if I would tolerate open book exams. Because I have never met a lawyer who practiced law without books or a computer terminal in his or her office to I decided years ago to give my exams under the "anything but a friend rule." When I practiced tax law at Cravath, I never saw a lawyer practicing without books by their side or a computer terminal from which information could be obtained or checked. For those who practiced law by the seat of their pants, I can see why you would not share my thinking.

I personally think this topic has had enough time spent on it and that we all should get back to grading or writing "as quick as we can."

anon

Your rambling does not address the comments, but then, you say you won't, in a most arrogant manner.

You don't get to decide the posting policy on the FL, you don't get to decide whether "enough time has been spent" on a subject (you apparently don't see the irony there) and you certainly don't demonstrate any knowledge whatsoever about practice at most firms (this is understandable, given that you spent "a number of years" doing "tax" at Craveth).

You say: "At small firms or in solo practices, [efficiency] is far less important" ... . This statement is as risible as "Most educational psychologists will tell you that if time is a factor in an exam, it is indicative of poor test design. If time becomes a factor in any of my exams, I know that I administered a poorly designed exam."

The latter bit of nonsense was the point to which response was made, and for good reason. You can't and haven't supported it. That is because it was just bogus musing. After giving you the benefit of the doubt and asking for ANY support, one is tempted now to ask the basis for your claimed knowledge of "educational psychology."

Nor have you stated that any take home open book exam should have no time limit. Time was the issue here, not whether an open book exam should be given.

One of the reasons to time an exam is to weed out a response like yours, which misses the points entirely and rambles on and on addressing straw arguments not present in the hypo.

Your response reminds anyone who has graded an exam of the most annoying kind of answer. You know them; the ones that come off like an expert in every problem but the actual problem at hand.

Anyone who has graded law school exams knows that even highly educated persons can be totally devoid of common sense, often incapable of careful reading under time pressure, and totally lacking in analytic ability and the ability to get to the point under discussion cogently and immediately, without straying into thinking about and arguments concerning irrelevancies.

If you don't believe that these skills are relevant to lawyering, we will need to ditch the LSAT, every state Bar exam, and basically eliminate court appearances, deadlines for transactions closing, etc. Shut it all down.


Paul Horwitz

Is there a particular reason so many commenters keep putting "educational psychology" in quotes?

Former Editor

Prof. Horwitz, I suspect the quotations are a way of implying that those posters do not believe that there are any educational psychologists who would actually take the position "that if time is a factor in an exam, it is indicative of poor test design" in the context of legal education. In other words, the quotes are to indicate that the persons relied upon in Prof. Turnier's appeal to authority don't really exist (and are therefore not authorities).

Prof. Turnier, I'll note that anon 9:33 asked you (albeit somewhat impolitely) for a citation to a credible educational psychology study, relevant to law practice, that endorsed "that if time is a factor in an exam, it is indicative of poor test design." You have thus far failed to give one and I note from your faculty bio that you are not, yourself, an expert in that area or the author of any literature in that field. If there is such a study, or multiple such studies, I would like to read them for my own edification. So, I'm repeating that request, even though I'm writing under an odious "pen pal" name for professional reasons.

Kristen

Former Editor, This isn't exactly what you asked for (I'm not an expert either), but maybe it'll help? Bill Henderson on "The LSAT, Law Schools, and Meritocracy: The Surprising and Undertheorized Role of Test-Taking Speed"

http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1342&context=facpub

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