Spirituality and Academic Performance at a Catholic Law School: An Empirical Study

49 Pages Posted: 14 May 2008 Last revised: 10 Dec 2012


This empirical study explores whether a student's spirituality affects academic performance during the first year of study at the University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota). A spirituality index measured 1) frequency of attendance at religious worship, 2) frequency of discussion of religion with others from different faith traditions, 3) the presence and strength of the connection between God and morality, and 4) the presence and strength of the view that entry into the legal profession is a divine calling. The spirituality index was correlated with academic performance measured by comparing actual performance and predicted performance (using the LSAT and the student's undergraduate grade point average). Strong spirituality had a negative correlation with academic performance. Medium and low spirituality had no correlation. And among the third of the students who performed substantially under expectations, the negative correlation was more significant than the broader positive correlation of either the LSAT or the undergraduate grade point average. This study is especially interesting and powerful because the University of St. Thomas School of Law has a strong Catholic identity and affirmatively promotes its faith-based mission at all levels of operation. The author discusses possible explanations for his findings that high spirituality correlates negatively with expected academic performance.

Keywords: Empirical legal studies, law and religion, legal education, spirituality, religious legal education, faith-based legal education, Catholic legal education

Suggested Citation

Taylor, Scott A., Spirituality and Academic Performance at a Catholic Law School: An Empirical Study. California Western Law Review, Vol. 45, p. 89, 2008, U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-20, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1131778

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