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Should the LSAC be allowed to disclose to law schools extra time given for disabilities?

J.Y. PingJ.Y. Ping Administrator Instructor
in General 13406 karma
Arguments welcome. You can simply say yes or no. I think the "yes" case is harder to make.

Comments

  • mpits001mpits001 Alum Member
    edited March 2015 938 karma
    I think this is a great topic that needs to be discussed more, and not just on this forum/other LSAT related forums, but by the higher ups at LSAC.

    Shouldn't it be on a case by case basis? What does LSAC define as a disability? Does the student have dyslexia, ADD, ADHD? Did they receive treatment for these disabilities, such as therapy or medication growing up? Are they currently taking therapy or medication for these disabilities?

    Does the student have 3 fingers with their writing hand and it's difficult to bubble in answer choices or write in general (like annotating RC comps or underlining LR passages for context, conclusion, or premise)?

    Does the student have vision issues that are not completely fixed by current vision corrective technology? I can imagine this would make all aspects of this test a lot more time consuming.

    I don't think LSAC should be allowed to disclose extra time given. This puts the disabled person on an uneven playing field, whether it grants sympathy or the admissions don't take the application as seriously. Is it an unfair advantage? That depends. If someone has had ADD all their life, and has regularly taken medication for most of their life (which includes during the test), then I don't really see why LSAC wouldn't want to report something like that (assuming the medication puts him on par with the average person when it comes to being focused). What if someone recently found out they have ADD; for example, maybe within the last couple of months? Has this individual fully assimilated to the medication? Have they been taking medication? Can they afford the medication?

    Also, is this considered discrimination?
    "treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit"
    By this definition it is, although there are other more conservative/liberal definitions of the word "discrimination".
  • Nilesh SNilesh S Alum Inactive ⭐
    edited March 2015 3438 karma
    My stand would be essentially the same but slightly firmer than @mpits001 on this. No I don't think this should be the case... Extra time tends to level the playing field... which is what people with disabilities need... An analog to this in law schools is that LL.M candidates whose first language is not English are given an extra hour to complete their exams... this is because they can't "think" and compose answers in English as fast as native speakers. While @"J.Y. Ping" you may (or may not) have noticed during your time at law school, this does cause some heartburn to JD students and LL.M students for whom English is their first language, (nobody will say it out loud but comments will be made in private groups at LL.M parties and bar review etc. - heard it from both sets in various settings - and sorry to say but I did make some offensive and insensitive remarks about the same because I was one of the LL.M students who did not get extra time - in retrospect, I wish I had been kinder instead of even jokingly telling people (who are now among my closest friends) to "go learn to handle yourselves better in English" - which was quite uncultured and ignorant on my part) I would not want a professor grading to know who had got extra time or not - who knows what effect it will have on their grading - perhaps none - but maybe a negative effect - after all, professors are only human - I would not want to take the risk. Similarly, if the LSAC disclosed the time issue to law schools, who knows what effect it would have on the ad-coms - maybe none, maybe some - would not want to take the risk involved.
  • They shouldn't indicate anything by the score but they should allow law schools know that the person has learning disabilities either through application questions or some other way. I see it as robbing schools of knowing who their admitting. Schools always look for diversity anyway.
  • Nilesh SNilesh S Alum Inactive ⭐
    edited March 2015 3438 karma
    I think that could be an alternative solution @Whitney180 but being as cautious as I am, I would hesitate to even do that because of the effect it might have on the candidate's chances... I might be better off if I disclosed... and then again I might not be... why should I take that risk. Also the assumption is that extra time levels the playing field so why to highlight the issue further when the effect may be to cancel the benefit I get from extra time? I speak in case of this case only... if the effect of the disability goes beyond the grant of extra time, then that is a different issue...
  • emli1000emli1000 Alum Member Inactive ⭐
    3462 karma
    I don't think they should. Why should it matter? If they've committed to studying for the LSAT for who knows how long then why should it matter? Their disability may make studying a difficulty for them. They have other barriers that they have to get through. While the rest may be able to do perfectly fine. If they want to disclose their personal information to their school, then that should be their choice. I feel that if the LSAC discloses their disability to schools then in a way they are impeding their progress. They already have enough to deal with so why make it harder on them? Let them reach their goals and get to where they need to.
  • Jonathan WangJonathan Wang Yearly Sage
    edited March 2015 6159 karma
    I'm going to put out a controversial opinion in devils-advocate style - as in, I'm not really sure I agree with the reasoning, but I'm going to present it as if I do because I'm curious to hear the counterarguments others come up with.

    I'll start with the idea that the grant of extra time is meant to level the playing field. I support level playing fields, obviously. But I sometimes question why the playing field should be leveled for disability where it's not for socioeconomic status, family background, amount of money paid for prep, access to resources, and so forth. Yes, medical diagnosis vs. none, impossible to control for all of those factors, impossible to administer, line must be drawn somewhere, I get it. But the end result is that one category of disadvantage (disability) winds up advantaged over all other categories of disadvantage simply because there's a medical scrip backing it up. Guess who's most likely to have the resources to get that medical scrip? Not the folks who can't afford a prep course, that's for sure. It seems to me that this doesn't solve the problem, but rather just shifts the distribution of disadvantage more heavily onto the people who are already shortest on resources. Disabilities, even if 100% legitimate, are now part of the 'advantaged' class because they are on theoretically even footing now, whereas people either too poor to prove that they're dealing with the same issues or who have an entirely separate set of issues to deal with that are no less onerous are still frozen out.

    I also question whether the playing field should be leveled at all - after all, disability or no, certain realities of the world remain. If it takes an ADHD person 1 hour to do what another guy does in 45 minutes, then I'm not exactly sure why I'm not justified in thinking non-ADHD guy is better. Note - this is not a question of who's 'deserving' of what, but rather a cold, rational utility calculation. If the ADHD dude's prescription drugs allow him to function at the same level as the non-ADHD guy, then there's no issue and no additional accommodation need be given (and therefore, shouldn't be). If the drugs don't bridge the gap, though, then ADHD guy is comparatively worse from a purely objective standpoint. I don't think very many people would take issue with the idea that a non-English speaker, or a deaf person, or a depressed person, no matter how brilliant, still needs to prove that he's capable of being on equal footing with his native English-speaking counterparts. Why should disability be different? I can admire their courage and perseverance, and even count them as net positives if I want, but that doesn't mean I should be forced to ignore their shortcomings, whether they're disability-related or no.

    Back to the question: Disability should not be disclosed because I don't think disability accommodations should be given, period - at least until we can accommodate everyone for everything that might have impacted their journey to test day. Since that's clearly a fool's errand, we should instead let the test be administered the exact same way to everyone and then have disabled folks do the same thing as all the ESL immigrants, single-parented children, kids with poor/rough upbringing, and so forth and talk about it in their application - personal statement, diversity statement, whatever.

    There's a policy issue here too, though, because I'm fully aware of the stigma that comes with disability and I'm not sure whether forcing disabled kids to disclose their disability in their essays unfairly burdens them. In fact, I'm even sure who 'fairness' should be in reference to. Is it fair to bring disabled kids with scrips up to 'normal' levels if that means kicking everyone else even further under the bus? Is it fair to force disabled kids to 'deal with it' like everyone else with disadvantage until a workable system is constructed? I don't honestly know.

    Again, not sure if I buy all of that 100%, but I'm curious to hear other peoples' thoughts.
  • jdawg113jdawg113 Alum Inactive ⭐
    2654 karma
    Well as reading all the comments I was thinking the route of finding a way to bring people on equal footing, not disclosing on the application in any way (unless desired by applicant in some sort of addendum/diversity statement, etc.) and then in some way be alerted after the fact as to allow a fair chance with no judgement )positive or negative) towards the conditions/reasons for the accommodations. For the fact that if they will need accommodations for the LSAT I would imagine they will need them for LS exams.

    Then I got to Jon's post and there are some very good points there. As harsh as it is business is business and people are in the business of making money and/or getting work done. They want people who can do that and do it faster than other people. Granted there are exceptions who are okay with some slower employees if the quality is there. That side thought popped the thought in my head that why should schools decide that applicants with some sort of disadvantage in the real world should get their chance to prove worthy in their own way? Yes schools are a business and with accommodations those individuals brought to equal footing won't affect that schools standings (I would think) so what is it to them? Okay maybe employment stats, but that *should* even out throughout the schools. But if we are talking about these applicants and the harsh reality of the real work world, why not give them the chance to get the required credentials and have their shot at proving to law firms and businesses that they can do the job in a satisfactory way if not better? Maybe they work slower but what if they have a way of thinking that can run circles about someone who didn't those accommodations? Maybe it may take a bit longer to write up those documents but maybe they will be the deciding thought processes that win case after case? I don't see why this shouldn't be the case.

    Yes it is a heck of a lot of money to possibly get rejected by firms because of that disability but if they are dedicated enough to push through everything and give it a shot, they should be able to push through and prove themselves... and if they can't, well they know or should know the risks they are taking
  • tsamvelyantsamvelyan Alum Member
    edited March 2015 431 karma
    I think there is an alternative solution to this issue. Although, it is fair to give longer time to test takers who have disabilities (ones that provide legitimate evidence that the test taker is at a disadvantage compared to other test takers), the issue then becomes, well how do you precisely determine how much longer time would make up for that individual's disability. For example, test taker A has ADD and has a doctor's note specifying the details of his condition - how on earth could LSAC make a determination how much longer to grant that individual so that the individual doesn't suffer or get an advantage over other test takers? In my opinion, this is a relevant factor since if the individual gets an advantage over other students due to longer than needed time, then the "normal" test takers will suffer (the word normal shall mean test takers in normal testing condition). I think a solution would be to allows those students take the test, but not use their score as part of the curve. Instead just give them their score based on other test takers' statistics. I also think that LSAC should encourage law schools to take into consideration the factor that test takers for whom English is not their first language, are at a disadvantage. LSAC keeps dodging this issue, but it's clear that test takers who are not native English speakers are at a disadvantage. I for one, can testify to that. And to answer the initial question, no LSAC should not disclose to Law Schools that students who took the test had disabilities - in fact they got sued for doing this and had to pay up I think close to 7 million dollars.
  • jdawg113jdawg113 Alum Inactive ⭐
    2654 karma
    @tsamvelyan not sure what you mean by "but not use their score as part of the curve." Curves are predetermined b4 the test is administered, unless I misunderstood what you meant of course...

    Also meant to add it in above post but as for some getting an advantage vs other... There is the fee waiver (similar to disability in that very hard to obtain) to try and give decent footing for helping those who can't afford the process. Though Jon made a good point in many of those who should qualify for accommodations cannot afford to get the proof LSAC requires, so I do think something should be done about that though not really sure what.
  • Jonathan WangJonathan Wang Yearly Sage
    6159 karma
    "Maybe it may take a bit longer to write up those documents but maybe they will be the deciding thought processes that win case after case?"

    This line of reasoning conflates having an attention disorder with the possibility of having a different, potentially superior thought process, where I can't see any good reason to link those ideas. Why would this be true of ADHD sufferers but not of 120 scorers? Why should a 'normal' applicant not be given the same benefit of the doubt? And, finally, isn't that what your application is supposed to showcase? Surely you must have demonstrated your unique problem-solving skills in the past and are able to write about it.

    I think this line of reasoning aligns very closely to the "Well, I have other attributes that the LSAT can't measure" argument. That's fine - you may well be a wonderful person with lots of great qualities - but that still isn't responsive to the contention that you are not as good as your peers at this particular skillset. And I know from firsthand experience that the skillset the LSAT tests is extremely relevant to both the intellectual study and the day-to-day practice of law, so accordingly it is difficult for me to accept the notion that we can just discard a solid data point on the basis of a speculative "what-if".

    I want to be clear - nobody's saying you can't be a good lawyer just because you didn't score high on the LSAT. But you will be a good lawyer because you hustle, because you're personable, because you're convincing in a courtroom, because you're a fantastic facilitator, because you're willing to stay later than everyone else - in other words, in spite of your skill shortcomings. It doesn't mean the LSAT is worthless - it just means that it probably shouldn't be as big a chunk of your application as it currently is for most schools.

    Then again, maybe this is just my Ivy League elitism talking.
  • jdawg113jdawg113 Alum Inactive ⭐
    2654 karma
    Well I do believe there is a difference in what I was saying vs 120 scorers in that these people have the ability to top scorers, just need a little bit more time or something to cope with the disability disadvantage... a 120 scorer would be someone who just doesnt get it and the thought processes aren't there. Granted you make some good points with "Surely you must have demonstrated your unique problem-solving skills in the past and are able to write about it." Though it is possible they don't have any crazy overcoming stories that would do much in their app but come to light in the vigor of LS but of course I realize the fact that might not happen but again, then they may fail/drop out or end up without a job, but at least they had the chance to strive for it.
  • mpits001mpits001 Alum Member
    938 karma
    Yeah, that's something I've been thinking about lately. If I always stay a low scorer, am I even worth attending law school and wasting the time of that said institution? I mean, the skillsets taught when studying for the LSAT seem to correlate a lot with what I'd imagine is taught in law school. If I can't rip apart and these tiny stimuli, how can I do the same on a much larger and difficult scale?

    In 7Sage we learn Lawgic. We learn what is right and wrong and train our minds to think a certain way. This is applied not only to law school, but also everyday life. Being able to notice the small details when someone speaks or makes an argument. Understanding what the main point of an argument is, bringing the flaws into the light, and etc.

    Of course, one can be good lawyer and learn as they go, but I feel going to law school with a low score is a huge disadvantage. In other words, the individual is not ready, and the colleges that are accepting those scores are using you to make money and marginally boost their institution %s (for example, a school doesn't accept 150s or 155s after maybe 10 years of accepting those scores).
  • MisterMagicMisterMagic Alum Member
    89 karma
    I wanted to ponder this for 24hrs before replying, plus now I got my 180 score from LSAC last night and my scholarship to Yale is sealed, so I can focus more clearly on my 7Sage posts ;-)

    Should they be allowed to provide information they saw fit to gather in the first place? Yes. If the question were “should they be required to” or “are there any legal issues if they do” the question would be a bit tougher. This question is a simple yes, however what follows is relevant.

    If a law school wants this information, LSAC should be allowed to provide it. I’m a die-hard believer in the idea that transparency is always better than a lack thereof. Withholding information, regardless of intention or what one feels is justified, whatever, is always less honest than providing it correctly and completely. “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but…”, as they say. What one decides to do with information they possess is a different discussion, and is honestly how I see people addressing the question at hand. We’re talking about providing information, not deciding whether to admit or deny someone.

    If I’m a law school admissions decider, I can’t imagine a world where I can make a better decision with less information. I’m screening applications, and to perform this task in the “best” way, I’m trying to decide primarily the following two things:

    1) What does this applicant bring to my classroom? How does his admission benefit the school’s faculty, staff and student body?
    2) What are the chances of success for this applicant? If I let them in, will they succeed? To what degree?

    Discussions about “leveling the playing field” miss the point. This is a very long and inviting area of debate that happens to be irrelevant to the question at hand regardless of how interesting and important that discussion is. However, it is noteworthy that being able to level the playing field, assuming it can indeed be leveled to some satisfactory status, is dependent on the transparency in question.

    Every application should be viewed as unique, because it is. Each person is exactly that, a human being, not a statistic, not an LSAT score, not a member of an ethnic group, not a disability with a label slapped on. Bob Dylan used to say “I’m not a folk singer…” all the time. It’s important to try to understand how and why he said that, the wisdom contained is profound and valuable.

    Each law school is also unique. Uniqueness including but not limited to what it offers, it what it wants to offer, in what it’s capable of offering each student.

    Following this rationale, and continuing the idea that I’m the admissions guy at Law School State, I might say, “What is the nature of this person’s disability? What accommodations do they require, and if met, how will they perform? Do I have the means to provide them, and at what cost? What cost to the other people of this school? Is it fair for one person to receive such attention and effort at the expense of other students? Will this student’s presence be a hindrance to everyone else?” I don’t know to what degree I can accurately answer these questions minus critical information.

    I may well decide that having such a person would enhance the environment at my school for everyone. It is very conceivable that such a person’s presence would lead to more complete, well-rounded attorneys graduating from my school, as well as a more capable and experienced staff and faculty. I could also be equally justified in deciding that this particular applicant should not attend because the entire situation could be a disaster. One has no idea if information is withheld.

    Perhaps most importantly, I would also have questions about the potential success of the student. While it may be the case that a student with special requirements could reach a high degree of success in my school, a likelihood that favors admittance, it also may be the case that this person is highly unlikely to succeed even with every imaginable accommodation in place. No one wants to let someone in just to see them fail. If the idea is to help the student succeed, I cannot imagine how not knowing their disability and special needs favors their chances of success, regardless of end decision of admission.

    On my application to law school, I was asked information on my ethnic background as well as sexual orientation (both, it is noteworthy, are socially constructed concepts). Why? What bearing on my 2 questions could the information provided have? Without disregard for the individual’s uniqueness, as well as grand assumptions about the nature of the groups in general, into which the admissions council wishes to pigeonhole everyone, the answers to such questions provide no indication whatsoever on admissions criteria. Its ridiculous to ask about this, and yet a measurable, diagnosable disability that will directly impact the success of the applicant as well as the learning environment which they wish to join should be kept secret? I disagree. If a law school wants this information from LSAC, they should be allowed to provide it.
  • jdawg113jdawg113 Alum Inactive ⭐
    edited March 2015 2654 karma
    @christopherblair hmm definitely some interesting and great points there. Curious as to your thoughts on where/how that should be indicated?
    :P
  • MisterMagicMisterMagic Alum Member
    89 karma
    Ha, yeah, just for the record, I didn't get 180/Yale, it's a joke about last night's comments from people awaiting scores and some untrue posts by suspect characters. I'm not that good at LSAT.
  • blah170blahblah170blah Alum Inactive ⭐
    edited March 2015 3545 karma
    @"Jonathan Wang" I've been pondering this counterargument for a while as I think the "slippery slope" argument is quite attractive. I want to address both points you made, starting with why we should have disability accommodations if leveling the playing field is our goal.

    I believe the granting of extra time or allowing for disability accommodation is meant to level the playing field, in line with other LSAC policies (in particular, ones that attempt to account for socioeconomic status). LSAC provides fee waivers for those students who can't afford the test or for whom $170 carries greater weight compared to other students. For students who come from lower socio-economic statuses, LSAC places monetary policies to allow students to take the test without financially burdening said students. Disability accommodations are non-monetary but nevertheless equivalent policies that allow students to take the test without unduly burdening them -- the difference is the nature of the policies (monetary vs. non-monetary). At the same time, I disagree that the end result differs from the desired result of the policy. I do agree that the advantaged class can take advantage of the policy but I stand by my earlier statement that it does more good than harm -- that there aren't as many students who are gaming the system was we would like to believe (I don't have numbers on that but would be very interested to see those). A possible way to mitigate the effect of having an advantaged class garnering additional advantages that are not intended for them is to include documentation from the schools where students in question attend to show that there is a history of disability in a student's record to further legitimize the individual's case. This would be much easier to verify in cases of physical disabilities. Now, how does this help students who are poor and can't get the necessary prescriptions/certified note of psychological disabilities? That's a lot harder. Nevertheless, most student campuses have nearby free clinics and student centers, where they can seek treatment and/or psychological help. If students truly cannot gain any sort of treatment purely for financial reasons, perhaps an individual can send individual financial records on top of their medical record to make the case that a student does in fact have a disability but can't seek medical recourse for financial reasons. This is not ideal nor perfect but could potentially have the effect of only granting disability accommodations for legitimate cases.

    The question of whether the playing field should be leveled at all is philosophical. I believe the slippery slope argument presented can go towards the opposite direction that is antithetical to the spirit of the American Dream and the pursuit of equality -- all the things you mention about disability could apply to cases concerning race, gender, and socioeconomic status. The fundamental principle as to why we have systems in place to mitigate the effects of racial/gender bias and poverty is because we've come to believe accidents of birth have no bearing on individual potential for success and production of the objective results we desire. As such, we have come to believe it is our responsibility to reduce such negative effects. I think in the legal profession especially we should take these into account. The reality is that the legal profession is still composed of predominantly white, affluent males. Despite the fact that there are roughly equal number of men and women who go to law school, the number of male partners grossly outweighs the number of female partners. The racial divide is even more pronounced, with very few people of color as major partners. I think the reality of it is that people make rational, utility calculations in the legal profession all the time. If our goal is to allow everybody the ability the chance to pursue affluence of their choosing, we should do what we can to create as level of a playing field as possible -- the capitalist market at the end of law school will determine who ultimately gets to take the most affluent positions.

    If equality of process is our goal, we have an obligation to reduce as many barriers to individual success as possible. Because I believe that equality (defined as equal access to x, y, or z) should be pursued, I stand by the fact that leveling the playing field is a goal unto itself that should be pursued and disability accommodations are necessary to help level the playing field. I do, however, concede that there are additional mechanisms that should be put into place to reduce the amount of illegitimate cases.

    ** I would really like to hear an argument that talks about the merits of having disability accommodations and how it can further the rational, utilitarian goals Jonathan mentions in his argument. I couldn't think of a fully developed argument so went a different route but I'd be very curious to see what others have to say.
  • TBH.11235TBH.11235 Member
    edited March 2015 88 karma
    SUMMARY:
    The LSAT is inherently unfair, so forcing everyone to take an unfair test does not make it a "level playing field," it just forces everyone to play on a slanted playing field that benefits some over others. Therefore, providing resources for disabled test-takers does not make the test less fair.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    PREMISE 1:
    The LSAT, just like any other standardized test or metric, is not fair.

    EVIDENCE FOR PREMISE 1:
    The LSAT is not perfectly predictive of law school performance.

    http://www.lsac.org/docs/default-source/research-(lsac-resources)/tr-13-03.pdf

    While this study shows that LSAT is more predictive of law school performance than GPA, and the correlation coefficient is relatively strong, the LSAT still leaves much to be desired in terms of predicting the "best" candidates.

    EVIDENCE FOR PREMISE 1:
    The LSAT is not highly correlated with BAR passage rates.

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2308341&download=yes

    This paper shows that the LSAT has a low correlation with BAR passage.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    PREMISE 2:
    Our understanding of what makes an ideal lawyer is flawed, and any test based on this flawed understanding is unlikely to be a good measure.

    There are many skills important for many lawyers (i.e. public speaking, interpersonal skills that are required to sell work and persuade juries/clients, ability to apply logic across 100 page documents as opposed to half-page arguments, etc.) that are not tested by the LSAT. For example, the omission of such skills-testing unfairly advantages people who can sit still and concentrate on short arguments, and allows socially-stunted people who can't hold concentration for months/years (as opposed to hours) to slip through.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    CONCLUSION:
    Since the LSAT is inherently flawed in a way that unfairly advantages some people, providing resources for disabled test-takers doesn't make a fair and balanced test into an unfair test, it merely takes an already unfair test and rebalances it to help people who we know are being unfairly disadvantaged by the structure of the test. One could attempt to argue that the advantage given to disabled test-takers is far greater than the initial disadvantage caused by the structure of the test, but that is a slightly different discussion, and one that could be entertained and debated.
  • Dillon PGDillon PG Alum Member
    140 karma
    @christopherblair "No one wants to let someone in just to see them fail."
    Well, I'm not sure if conditional scholarships make law schools much money if at least some people aren't failing. But I am in a very cynical mood about non elite law schools lately, so don't mind me.

    I think that the LSAC should disclose the extra time given. The disability in question will be brought up eventually if it is so severe it requires extra time. What about LS exams? What about work in the future? I think the debate should really be "Should the LSAC be giving extra time?"

    I've seen some awesome points above as well, including what @TBH.11235 said. It's not a very fair test to begin with, although I think it is a very useful indicator. Besides the cognitive reasons for why it is unfair, there is data suggesting that higher income individuals just score better (presumably due to money for tutors/classes/time off to actually study), therefore they get more scholarships and/or go to better law schools.

    There should be a full application process for a grant which would allow you to live and study for 3+ months for this test to level the playing field. It could come from all that government money that shouldn't be spent on loans.

    Sorry, being negative and off topic. Don't mind me.
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