Three New State-of-the-Art Legal Writing Assessments—And a Follow-Up E-Learning Option!

“You Get What You Measure” —Scott Westfahl

Over the last year, more and more schools, firms, judges, and fellowships have been using Legal Writing Pro writing assessments for both recruiting and skills development.

Now, with the benefit of data on thousands of lawyers and students along with new state-of-the-art assessment and online learning portals, we are launching an exciting new menu of three assessments.

The Skills Snapshot is especially helpful for recruiting and for providing a broad gauge of current legal-writing skill. It’s a Computer Adapted Testing instrument that adjusts for performance as you go along. It can give you a reliable skills snapshot in just 20 minutes.

The Skills Overview is longer than the Skills Snapshot (about 40 minutes). It gives a fuller picture of the user’s strengths and weaknesses.

The 75-minute Comprehensive Analysis is for long-term professional development and certification of competencies. It consists of three separate instruments: a Computer Adapted Testing multiple-choice module like the ones above, a free writing component that prompts the user to write and edit sentences and passages, and a test of writing speed and fluency.

These are the only writing assessments normed on both practicing lawyers and law students. And they are now scored on one continuous scale, allowing comparisons across assessments and users along with comparisons over time.

Unique Benefits

  • These assessments help students and practitioners meet one of the profession’s biggest goals: to measure and develop the skills that lawyers need. On the writing front, we’ve done that analysis for you: For every scored question in the item bank, successful lawyers outperform law students; summer associates outperform law students as a whole; and high-performing  lawyers do better than their colleagues, who in turn outscore lawyers who have been identified as needing writing help. The scores and the skills tested thus correlate with real-world indicators and do not reflect anyone’s opinion, including my own. Only questions that perform at high statistical standards are on these assessments.
  • For the first time, you can get all the benefits of Computer Adapted Testing and Item Response Theory because of my recent partnership with Assessment Systems. This functionality helps you in five ways.
    • CAT assessments adjust the difficulty levels as the user goes along, slashing total assessment time without sacrificing precision.
    • Everyone from law students to law firm partners is scored on the same scale, allowing apples-to-apples comparisons.
    • The questions themselves are rated on that same scale, so it’s easy to link a user’s performance with the right level of developmental follow-up.
    • CAT assessments generate different questions in every session, so you can measure progress over time without worrying that users have already seen the questions.
    • For high-stakes settings, our portals offer virtual proctoring and other security measures if you want candidates to take assessments on their own time. (These modalities require an extra fee.)
  • You will no longer need to solicit writing samples, which are notoriously difficult and time-consuming to rate, let alone compare fairly and reliably.
  • Firms can add heft to their competency models and shrink skill gaps before it’s too late.
  • Employers and lateral recruiters can follow what some of my clients are already doing: administer a writing assessment to lateral candidates to avoid costly regrets down the road.
  • Schools and recruiters can help entry-level, lateral, and clerkship candidates distinguish themselves, especially if their paper credentials don’t reflect all their strengths.
  • Employers can find highly skilled candidates whom they might otherwise overlook.

Sample Item Response Theory data that backs up the assessments:

Three Assessments to Meet Your Needs

Option One: Skills Snapshot

If you need a broad measure of current legal-writing skill, our vast item bank, Item Response Theory data, and Computer Adapted Testing portal can give you a reliable and objective Skills Snapshot in just 20 minutes. Because the algorithms continually adapt for performance, you can glean more information in 20 minutes than you might otherwise get in an hour.

For each user, you will get an overall skill range and comparisons with relevant groups of lawyers or students. You can also decide whether the users should see the results.

This assessment is especially well suited to recruitment settings.

The Skills Snapshot is $65.

Sample Snapshot Report:

Option Two: Skills Overview

If you want a portrait of strengths and weaknesses along with a broad measure of skill, the Skills Overview provides it in just 40 minutes. For each user, you will get an overall skill range and comparisons with other groups along with subscores reflecting strengths and weaknesses. You can decide whether the users should see the results and an accompanying report.

The Skills Overview is $90.

Option Three: Comprehensive Analysis

This package is especially suited for employers who want to certify their attorneys’ skills and competencies or who want a richer picture of an attorney’s current skill set.

The Comprehensive Analysis battery takes 75 minutes, but the user doesn’t need do it all at once. It includes the strengths-and-weaknesses features of the Skills Survey along with the results of two other stand-alone assessments: a standardized Free Writing measure that asks the user to create and edit sentence passages and a standardized Writing Fluency measure that taps into how quickly and efficiently the user can write under pressure, a key skill in the legal profession. For these two measures, we have comparison data on thousands of lawyers and students.

For each candidate, you will receive a comprehensive set of ability estimates along with relative strengths and weaknesses among all measurable dimensions of writing skill. For groups, you can also receive rankings and recommendations on how to get your entire firm to the next level. You can decide whether users will see the results and an accompanying report.

The Comprehensive Analysis is $225.

Follow-Up E-Learning Option

As I mentioned, one virtue of these CAT assessments is that they can enhance tailored training. Not all 1Ls–or all seventh-year associates–have the same skills and needs.

That’s why we now offer an all-new E-Learning curriculum organized into carefully constructed workout paths. Our new Learning Management System, iSpring, adds participation tracking reports and gamification to the mix.

The difficulty levels are broad enough to suit everyone from average law students to appellate partners (many partners and judges who have done earlier versions of these exercises have expressed surprised at how tough some of them are).

Sample question:

The exercise sets combine both objective questions and free-response questions. All questions are followed with immediate feedback and explanations.

Like the assessment items, the exercises will be continually refreshed.

A separate page provides fees and other information on these E-Learning packages.

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