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Recently, in response to the heavy representation of men on the popular television show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,” a theory was advanced that by and large, women are not as adept at the linear speed thinking needed to pass the entry tests for the show. I do not know whether this is true, but suppose it is. Who cares? Although they are statistically as likely as men to answer correctly, women are more likely to take nine seconds to answer, whereas men do so in 4 1/2. Can anyone really argue that, if this is true, women are less able than men? Does it doom them, for example, in the legal profession, where “smart as a whip” has long been adopted as the lawyer’s single most impressive trait? The recruiting season is a good time for legal educators and hiring partners to evaluate the types of lawyers we want to attract to our firms and, ultimately, the types of lawyers we want to attract to our profession. One of the perennial topics of discussion is the need for diversity — of race, gender, attitude and personal characteristics — and the instruments we have for judging what is most needed to enrich the professional mix. The bottom line is always the same: How can firms attract attorneys who reflect the diversity and skills needed to meet the requirements of a changing world? Clients come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so it is important, for both the success of the system and the viability of firms, for lawyers to reflect that variety. Are the current methods of selection still valid? AN OUTDATED MEASURE Thanks to the overall shrinkage of the graduate student pool in the past decade, the population from which future lawyers is drawn has also become smaller. But this is only part of the problem. A thornier one is the way we make our selections: It is steeped in tradition and therefore hard to budge. Longtime practice tells us that the students who make the best lawyers are those who are the brightest, and we are used to equating intellect with performance on standardized tests. But although students who ace the SAT or LSAT undoubtedly are smart, should these tests be the primary key, or barrier, to the profession? I challenge the importance of the LSAT, in particular, on the basis that, although lawyers obviously must demonstrate an acceptable level of competence, neither superior intellect nor a high test score is a sine qua non. The LSAT is, to use a sports analogy, a fast-twitch test. It measures speed in response to the unfamiliar as a component of success. In some professions, this kind of rapid-fire response is critical — medicine comes immediately to mind. But law is a profession that values and encourages preparation. Lawyers cling to a tradition of authority. We read and cite statutes, regulations and judicial opinions. We check to be sure a statute has not been repealed or a judicial decision overruled. And if we have the luxury, we mull over the problem, seeking to balance our obligations as advocate and counselor. This profession is a good fit for the thoughtful, well-prepared individual. Yet for the methodical thinker, the person whose best responses come after a walk around the block, success on the LSAT is problematic. So someone who might make an excellent lawyer loses out because we value speed in response to the unfamiliar above all else. I believe that standardized tests are based on response modes that suit some test takers and disfavor others, wholly separate from the analytical or intellectual abilities of the test takers. I do not believe these disparities are intentional, but their consequences are real and severely limit the ability of law schools to educate the wide range of people with potential to be extraordinary lawyers. Another impediment is the law itself. In many areas of the country, public institutions are prohibited from considering an applicant’s contribution to diversity in making admissions decisions. On the surface, this seems both fair and appropriate, but it is neither. If the attitudes and behaviors of lawyers were uniform, then diversity would not matter. But the attitudes of lawyers are as diverse as the clients who need their services. Some cases require high intellect; some, passion; some, patience; some, a sense of history. And the lawyer who may be right for one case may be wrong for — or worse, uninterested in — another. The key to an attorney-client relationship is trust. For this bond to exist, clients need a range of available lawyers. Our profession must work to understand those things that make good lawyers. Certainly we seek people who are bright and talented. But how do we measure those factors? And is intelligence all that is needed? We must find criteria that will help us identify and evaluate the potential success of a diverse group of lawyers. Involvement in collegiate activities, scholarly and nonscholarly, often reflects students well-integrated into their environment. Leadership roles signify good judgment. Commitment to community service and volunteer activities may translate well to good lawyering. But even these things are not enough. We must remember that creating more lawyers in our own image may be adequate but not sufficient. Only then will we ensure a profession that continues to flourish in the most useful way: by meeting the needs of a diversity of clients. JoAnne Epps is a professor and associate dean for academic affairs at Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law.

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