Analysis of Differential Prediction of Law School Performance by Racial/Ethnic Subgroups Based on 1999-2001 Entering Law School Classes (TR-03-03)
by Lisa Anthony Stilwell and Peter Pashley

Executive Summary

This study was designed to address questions of differential prediction of law school grades for various racial/ethnic subgroups (i.e., Asian American, Black, Latino, and White students). Differential prediction was evaluated by comparing the predicted and actual law school first-year grade-point averages (FYAs) among subgroups within individual law schools. Such research is essential for assuring that the use of Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores and undergraduate grade-point averages (UGPAs) in an admission process is fair to all subgroups in the applicant population.

The sample used in this study was drawn from 1999, 2000, and 2001 entering law school classes, using data that were available from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC)-sponsored Correlation Studies. Data from 177 law schools, each of which enrolled, over the three-year period, 10 or more first-year students who identified themselves as Asian American, Black, or Latino, were analyzed.

Statistical analyses were carried out to predict FYAs using LSAT scores alone, UGPAs alone, and the best predictive combination of LSAT scores and UGPAs. The third prediction equation is commonly referred to as a law school “index.” Analyses were carried out separately for all individual law schools included in the study, resulting in three prediction equations for each law school. The prediction equations were derived based on all students at a law school, as is normally done in the LSAC Correlation Studies.

The results reported here indicate that FYA tended to be, on average, overpredicted (i.e., predicted FYAs exceeded actual FYAs) very slightly for all three of the minority subgroups studied here, with Black law students exhibiting the most overprediction and Asian American law students exhibiting the least overprediction. The use of UGPA alone to predict FYA consistently resulted in the greatest average overprediction of FYA. Overall, these results do not support the concern that the LSAT score or the traditional combination of LSAT score and UGPA may contribute toward unfair admission decisions for the racial/ethnic subgroups studied here.

While considering the results of this study, the reader should keep in mind that they refer only to subgroup behavior and not to individuals. For example, while results may suggest that UGPAs alone may overpredict FYAs for Black law students on average, the performance of many individual Black law students may be underpredicted based solely on their UGPAs.

Finally, it is worth repeating that the average amount of overprediction or underprediction of FYAs found for the four racial/ethnic subgroups studied was very slight, regardless of the prediction equation that was used. In other words, this study provided no evidence that LSAT scores, UGPAs, or combinations of those two measures unfairly predict future law school performance for any racial/ethnic subgroup.

Analysis of Differential Prediction of Law School Performance by Racial/Ethnic Subgroups Based on 1999-2001 Entering Law School Classes (TR-03-03)

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