Law school applicants may wish it was easier to get in, but alumni say the opposite. According to a new Kaplan Bar Review survey, recent law school grads wish their alma maters had been a bit more exclusive. Of the 350 graduates surveyed, almost two-thirds said law schools should raise their academic standards, and require higher LSAT scores and GPAs.
“There’s a certain irony to our survey results,” says Tammi Rice, vice president of Kaplan Bar Review. “On one hand, law school graduates recognize that perhaps getting into law school has become easier than in previous years.
“But on the other hand, though they may not realize it, these lower academic standards might have played a role in why they got in.”
LAW SCHOOL STANDARDS MAY BE GOING DOWN
Despite the wishes of their alumni, however, law schools seem to be trending in the other direction. Two major schools no longer require the LSAT at all, accepting GRE scores instead, and others plan to follow. Some schools reason that accepting the GRE will boost application numbers, admitting less-qualified students without risking a drop in rank.
The first school to make this move, in February 2016, was the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. More recently, Harvard Law School became the second to accept GRE scores, stating a desire for a more diverse applicant pool.
However, LSAT administrations are on an upswing this cycle, Rice says. “Some law schools may have more applicants to choose from, which means they might become more selective,” she says.
BAR EXAM SCORES ARE ALSO GOING DOWN
The survey results may also be influenced by recent bar passage rates. Bar exam scores have been going down for a while, and this year the average Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) score was 134, the lowest ever in the history of aggregated MBE results.
The same is true in at least some of the state-specific bar exams. In California, the State Bar of California released results from the July 2016 exam showing that only 43% of the exam takers passed. Previously, the results from California’s July 2015 exam — which had been a 46.6% pass rate — had been the lowest in three decades.
MORE THAN HALF FIND DEBT ‘UNMANAGEABLE’
The Kaplan survey also found that of the law school graduates who have student debt, 58% described their debt amount as “unmanageable.” Similarly, 50% of survey respondents said they were satisfied with the amount of aid their alma mater provided, while the other 50% were not satisfied.
“Student debt continues to understandably be a concern for law school students,” Rice says. “We encourage all students and prospective students to be as thoughtful as possible when thinking about how to finance their legal education.
“For instance, consider tuition and anticipated starting salary at the law school you plan to attend or are currently attending. Those numbers are publicly available and aspiring attorneys should do this important research.”
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