There’s an old expression, perhaps uttered by Elmer Fudd, that “to catch a rabbit, you have to think like a rabbit” (although Elmer would have pronounced it “wabbit”). Maybe that applies to other scenarios as well. One might argue that “to become a lawyer, you should think like a lawyer”. That appears to be the approach being taken by one prospective law school applicant, Joan Hoyt, who has a diagnosed learning disability, and has therefore filed suit against Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the entity that administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), requesting several personal accommodations to make the testing fair to her, including extra time for the exam, a distraction-reduced environment, the use of a “white noise” machine and computer, and to be allowed food and drink during the test.
Surprisingly, Ms. Hoyt is not the first person to raise such issues over LSAT testing. A Texas man sued to be allowed extra time in 2009 to accommodate his ADHD diagnosis, and a New York woman also sought extra testing time in her 2011 suit based upon a disability causing her to read and write more slowly as a result of the removal of a brain lesion a few years earlier. At least two or three other suits along those lines have also been pursued within the past decade, seeking accommodations during the LSAT for what might be described as “non-physical” disabilities.
Lawyers themselves, over the years, have contributed greatly in the fight to allow people with disabilities and other needs to participate in events, activities, careers and opportunities that might have otherwise been closed to them. However, while few would argue that anyone should be prevented from pursuing their goals based on their race, religion, gender, ethnicity, etc., or that there is anything unfair about providing physical assistance to those who are blind, paraplegic, etc., one has to wonder where the line should be drawn over these “accommodations”. What is the next type of problem that warrants some special circumstance, equipment or adjustment in the test environment? In this case, should Ms. Hoyt be allowed extra time and a “white noise” machine because she has, as she claims, a generalized anxiety disorder and learning disability? And if so, will she be afforded those accommodations some day in trial, arbitrations, or contract negotiations if she is admitted to law school and ultimately pursues a career in law? In fact, it seems apparent to me that a certain amount of anxiety goes hand-in-hand with the practice of law on a daily basis. I would personally feel better and perform more successfully if I could listen to my iPod during trial to soothe me with relaxing New Age music through painful testimony and to pump me up Rocky-style before a vigorous cross-examination. However, I don’t expect my personal wish-list of accommodations to be available any time soon.
While I am completely sympathetic to Ms. Hoyt’s personal predicament, as well as those of the previous Texas and New York LSAT applicants, and hope they find a vocation that allows them great success, I suggest that perhaps a line of work other than something as stressful as the practice of law may be more suitable for them. Then again, I suspect many clients already wonder if it isn’t a job prerequisite for a lawyer to have a certain amount of brain damage, attention-deficit or anxiety disorder as it is. Perhaps Ms. Hoyt is on the right track after all.