Erin Decker '16, a recent law school graduate, tests well.
Decker is one of only a handful of test-takers who aced her LSAT, answering every question correctly to earn a perfect score of 180. Fortunately, her passion for education extends to sharing that knowledge, and she is happy to teach the secrets of her success to the next generation of aspiring law students.
“Of all of the graduate admissions tests, the LSAT is the one most strongly correlated with grades in the first year, so schools appropriately place a lot of emphasis on the results” Decker says. “That makes sense, because the LSAT, unlike most other tests, is not content-based. There is nothing to memorize and regurgitate; you need to be able to think on your feet, and you need to be motivated to learn from your mistakes.”
“The skills you need to succeed on the LSAT – the ability to read critically and precisely, and to identify logical connections or flaws within arguments – are the same skills you need to succeed in law school and beyond. It’s not enough to know the background facts and final outcome of a case, an attorney must also understand the factors that led to a decision in order to effectively mount an appeal or use precedent in a new matter.”
Decker is a bona fide expert on the subject. She began teaching LSAT prep courses for Kaplan, Inc., the national test prep company, while earning her Masters in math at Binghamton University. Teaching the LSAT in that context, she says, “got me thinking seriously about law school. I never saw a disconnect between math and the law. When you get to a certain level of studying math, it’s all about theorems, logic, and intuition. It’s not about numbers. To me, the biggest difference was that as a lawyer, I could be an advocate for people facing immediate, real-world challenges, while as a mathematician, I would be focused on abstract concepts.”
Advocacy, according to Decker, was “definitely the right the choice.” As a practicing attorney, she focuses on civil and business litigation as well as trust and estate law, leveraging her law degree as well as her MBA education from Cornell University to represent her clients’ interests in business and financial matters.
For Buffalo Law School, Decker has launched a prelaw skills course for DiscoverLaw PLUS (PreLaw Undergraduate Scholars), an award-winning program designed to encourage minority undergraduate students to explore a legal career, which she teaches alongside other law school faculty each June. She has further developed that course into a day-long LSAT preparation workshop for college students and adults considering a career change. The workshop includes six hours of instruction punctuated by a lunch hour at which law school staffers lead a question-and-answer session about the admissions process.
Is it really possible to coach someone to earn a higher score on the LSAT, which after all is supposed to measure innate skills? “Of course!” Decker says: “Part of it is understanding the structure of the test and what the questions are really asking, and the rest depends on honing your critical reading skills. You can absolutely teach those, and we have seen our students excel because of it.”