Does An LSAT Score Belong On A Resume?
In a discussion over at Empirical Legal Studies Blog, on the issue of Vault’s new list of the Top 25 Underrated Law Schools, Jeff Stake and Bill Henderson both bring up the question of whether students ought to put their LSAT scores on their resumes. This turns out to be an interesting and complicated question. Bill suggests that including this information may be dangerous because it:
raises some difficult signaling problems. If it higher than a recruiter might expect, one might wonder why candidate X is not higher in the class; if is lower than expected, it does the candidate no good. These dynamics work against this practice being commonplace.
I’m not sure that Bill has this quite right. Top grades may be a good proxy for attorney quality (though that is far from certain) and firms rely on this information routinely. But they also rely heavily on the identify of the law school to distinguish between students with similar law school records. Maybe that’s because they believe a Harvard education is better than a State U. education. Maybe it’s because law schools are curved, and they figure top grades at Harvard provide more information than top grades at State U. But I suspect they use a student’s law school as a proxy for undergraduate record (as captured by school and GPA) plus intellect (as captured by LSAT scores.) A resume typically includes an applicant’s undergraduate record anyway. Only the LSAT is missing.
The problem is, many students who could attend Top 15 law schools decline to do so. I suspect that the majority of all public law schools, and many reasonably flush private law schools, have a significant student segment sporting impressive LSAT’s. Yet I’m guessing that recruiters at many fancy firms assume that an Alabama or Drexel student could not have gained admission to a Duke or Cornell. And top firms – in NY, at least – give relatively few interviews to students outside of the Top 15 law schools. They demand very high grades and, even then, are quite picky. How do students who do well, and who want jobs typically reserved for graduates of top schools, fight their way into the mix? One way to do this might be to share a high LSAT score.
Unfortunately for student with high scores, including an impressive LSAT on a resume may be viewed as tacky or crass. Or as those etiquette-loving folks at Auto-Admit put it, it makes you look like a bit “toolish.” I don’t disagree that including LSAT’s may trigger social sanctions, but in many ways these sanctions are unfair. Students who apply from Harvard are strutting their LSAT’s every time they send out a resume. Why is it that students at other schools who also earn high LSAT’s can’t share that information – particularly when we know that, implicitly at least, employers rely on this data for hiring?