Law schools are continuing to throw Hail Marys. This week, law school applicants with poor standardized testing have reason to rejoice. A week after William Mitchell College of Law essentially absorbed nearby Hamline University School of Law, two prominent schools have announced they will no longer require a Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score for admission to students graduating from their undergraduate schools.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported today (Feb. 24) that the State University of New York-Buffalo Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law will accept students from their respective undergraduate colleges based on grade point averages and scores from other standardized tests. They are the first two schools to make good on a recent American Bar Association rule change. In August, the ABA announced law schools could fill up to 10 percent of their classes with students who have not taken the LSAT. The condition is those students must have graduated at the top of their college class and have scored highly on the ACT, SAT, GRE or GMAT.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, 15 schools applied for this special exemption to admit students who had not taken the LSAT before the rule change was official. Managing Director of Accreditation and Legal Education at the ABA, Barry Currier told Businessweek that he expects those schools and more to take advantage of the rule change.
Of course this comes on the heels of the announcement that first-year enrollment numbers had dropped even further. After a peak of more than 52,000 1Ls in 2010, the enrollment amount has plunged nearly 28 percent to just under 38,000 students this year. Specifically at SUNY-Buffalo and Iowa, the enrollment of 1Ls has declined by about 20 percent from 2011.
Admissions staff members traditionally use LSAT scores to indicate the likelihood of first-year success in law school. Nevertheless, Currier told Bloomberg Businessweek that students accepted into law programs this year with no LSAT score have had similar outcomes as counterparts who took the LSAT.
Currier believes this could be the “front end” of students not needing an LSAT score to be admitted to law school. Many law school rankings are based on reported median LSAT scores. Additionally, scholarships are given out by median LSAT scores. Schools will assuredly track the success (or failure) rates of students they admit with no LSAT scores. Currier believes if those students do show success, the schools will report those findings to the ABA and push for an even higher percentage of students who can be admitted without LSAT scores in hopes of attracting students considering other graduate school programs.