JD-Next: A Valid and Reliable Tool to Predict Diverse Students’ Success in Law School

52 Pages Posted: 13 May 2021 Last revised: 27 Sep 2022

See all articles by Jessica Findley

Jessica Findley

University of Arizona

Adriana Cimetta

University of Arizona - College of Education

Heidi Burross

University of Arizona - College of Education

Katherine Cheng

University of Arizona - College of Education

Matt Charles

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Cayley Balser

James E. Rogers College of Law

Ran Li

University of Arizona - College of Education

Christopher T. Robertson

Boston University; University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Date Written: August 29, 2022

Abstract

Admissions tests have increasingly come under attack by those seeking to broaden access and
reduce disparities in higher education. Meanwhile, in other sectors there is a movement towards
“work-sample” or “proximal” testing. Especially for underrepresented students, the goal is to
measure not just the accumulated knowledge and skills that they would bring to a new academic
program, but also their ability to grow and learn through the program.

The JD-Next is a fully-online, non-credit, 7-10 week course to train potential JD students in case
reading and analysis skills, prior to their first year of law school. This study tests the validity and
reliability of the JD-Next exam as a potential admissions tool for juris doctor programs of
education. (In a companion article, we report on the efficacy of the course for preparing students
for law school.)

In 2019, we recruited a national sample of potential JD students, enriched for racial/ethnic
diversity, along with a sample of volunteers at one university (N=62). In 2020, we partnered with
17 law schools around the country to recruit a cohort of their incoming law students (N=238). At
the end of the course, students were incentivized to take and perform well on an exam that we
graded with a standardized methodology. We collected first-semester grades as an outcome
variable, and compared JD-Next exam properties to legacy exams now used by law schools (the
LSAT, including converted GRE scores).

We found that the JD-Next exam was a valid and reliable predictor of law school performance,
comparable to legacy exams. For schools ranked outside the top-50 we found that the legacy
exams lacked significant incremental validity in our sample, but the JD-Next exam provided a
significant advantage. We also replicated known, substantial racial and ethnic disparities on the
legacy exam scores, but estimate smaller, non-significant score disparities on the JD-Next exam.
Together this research suggests that, as an admissions tool, the JD-Next exam may reduce the risk
that capable students will be excluded from legal education and the legal profession.

The companion paper testing efficacy of the JD-Next program for improving law school grades is available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3845577.

Keywords: legal education, academic success, bridge program, pipeline program, case briefing, case analysis, legal analysis, law school GPA, online curriculum, admissions, student confidence, standardized testing, admissions testing, validity, reliability, standard 503, diversity and inclusion, disparities

Suggested Citation

Findley, Jessica and Cimetta, Adriana and Burross, Heidi and Cheng, Katherine and Charles, Matt and Balser, Cayley and Li, Ran and Robertson, Christopher T., JD-Next: A Valid and Reliable Tool to Predict Diverse Students’ Success in Law School (August 29, 2022). Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 22-16, previous version published at No. 21-10, __ J. Empirical Legal Studies __ (forthcoming 2023) , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3845533 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3845533

Jessica Findley (Contact Author)

University of Arizona ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States
2145648627 (Phone)
85716 (Fax)

Adriana Cimetta

University of Arizona - College of Education ( email )

P.O. Box 210069
Tucson, AZ 85721-0069
United States

Heidi Burross

University of Arizona - College of Education ( email )

P.O. Box 210069
Tucson, AZ 85721-0069
United States

Katherine Cheng

University of Arizona - College of Education ( email )

P.O. Box 210069
Tucson, AZ 85721-0069
United States

Matt Charles

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

Cayley Balser

James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

Ran Li

University of Arizona - College of Education ( email )

P.O. Box 210069
Tucson, AZ 85721-0069
United States

Christopher T. Robertson

Boston University ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
6179100649 (Phone)
02215 (Fax)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

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