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Model Prelaw Support Program Rationale

Many students do not do well on the LSAT even though they have been successful in college and have taken a short (1-2 month) LSAT training program. In addition, many students who do perform adequately on the LSAT are not admitted to their top choice schools because their personal statement is not strong. Finally, many students are sidetracked by poor time management, failure to plan ahead, low self-esteem, low personal expectations and/or a overly passive learning style. We can call these "sabotage" factors.

We will first consider factors that lead to failure on the LSAT and then factors that lead to an inadequate personal statement.

Failure on the LSAT. Based on personal observation during my 18 years experience working with such students, there are specific factors that lead to failure on the LSAT. The most common factor is that the students' cognitive strengths do not match the cognitive skills that the LSAT tests.

The LSAT, based on my analyses, mainly tests the following cognitive skills:

A. Reading Comprehension

  • the ability to process complex written language in both detail oriented and wholistic ways
  • the ability to distinguish when detail oriented processing is required and when wholistic processing is required
  • the ability to integrate detail oriented and wholistic understanding
  • the ability to deconstruct complex sentences
  • the ability to accurately resolve differences between close answers

B. Logical Reasoning

  • the ability to understand and evaluate a logical argument both through breaking it down into components (detail processing) and through wholistic strategies, such as creating a parallel argument that is easier to understand or comparing the argument to real world situations
  • the ability to integrate detail oriented information and wholistic information to evaluate what would strengthen or weaken the argument
  • the ability to accurately resolve differences between close answers

C. Analytical Reasoning

  • the ability to precisely organize complex logical information graphically
  • the ability to use problem solving processes in a highly organized and systematic way
  • the ability to quickly choose an appropriate problem solving process from a wide repertoire
  • the ability to understand and manipulate complex if/then conditions accurately
  • the ability to accurately resolve differences between close answers

D. General Test Strategy

  • the ability to organize the use of time in the most effective way for this particular test
  • the ability to use effective strategies when faced with difficult or intimidating questions

There are many additional cognitive skills that are required for success on the LSAT.

If a student is a gifted orator, a superior organizer of people, a great collaborator, a compassionate soul, a talented artist or musician, a technical specialist, etc., but is not strong in the cognitive skills listed above, they may have difficulty being admitted to a good law school.

An LSAT training program can be successful if the program teaches the required cognitive skills and does so in a way that draws on each student's specific strengths. In other words the program must help the student master new skills by expanding on the skills that they already have.

An effective LSAT instructor will:

  • thoroughly understand the skills that the test requires
  • have a wide repertoire of methods for guiding students to develop those skills
  • have the sensitivity to discern each student's needs
  • have the time to work with each student personally and individually over an extended time (6-12 months or more)
  • be available to each student during flexible hours
  • evaluate in an ongoing way each student's level of achievement, what obstacles they are facing and what help they need to succeed and stay on a successful timeline

Even after a student has reached a ceiling through the help above, they can become more competitive through help with:

  • the personal statement
  • career research
  • identifying any learning disabilities and
  • conducting significant research in their area of interest

Failure on the personal statement. The common factors that lead to an inadequate personal statement include:

  • addressing goals in terms that are too general
  • not having a clear sense of the area of law the student is interested in and what the issues are in that area
  • not including the three critical areas of information that the committee needs, viz., goals and motivation, proof of academic excellence, reasons for attending that particular school
  • including the above areas but doing so in a way that is too disorganized to insure that the committee absorbs it
  • including too much irrelevant or technical information
  • poor writing skills in the areas of organization, grammar and rhetoric
  • inappropriate tone, such as too formal, too informal, too anecdotal, too earnest
  • claiming to have certain personal, academic or professional qualities without documenting them
  • failure to address personal, academic and professional qualities at all
  • failure to connect to the committee on a personal level, viz., failue to communicate warmth, interest in other people, well rounded interests, interest in family and community

Failure due to sabotage factors. Students frequently do not plan far enough in advance to have enough time to devote to the LSAT and admissions process, even if they have access to programs that can help with those areas. Students often end up overwhelmed with school assignments, family obligations and work. Under these conditions even the best LSAT or admissions support programs cannot succeed.

Additionally, some students have low self-esteem or low expectations for themselves. These students may avoid working on the admissions process or avoid asking for or taking advantage of outside help. They may subconsciously be more comfortable with failure and more anxious about trying to succeed. When these students are pushed to try harder, they often go further in the opposite direction.

Similarly, some students have a very passive learning style. They may find it difficult to respond to an instructor and the instructor's assignments without having a sense of a personal connection. They do not initiate work. They do not ask for help. They often do not respond to the instructor's communication. When these students are pushed to try harder, they often feel that they are being blamed.

To summarize, there is a need for LSAT and admissions support that:

  • assesses the student's strengths and needs in an ongoing way
  • teaches new cognitive skills
  • works with each student over 6 to 12 months or longer
  • provides sufficient personal, individualized help through highly skilled test specialists
  • provides expert support with other strategies for successful admission, especially the personal statement
  • addresses sabotage factors by helping students plan in advance, identify their career goals and plan for successfullyachieving them and by generally providing a personal mentor who can establish a trusting and honest relationship with the student