Is the LSAT Unfair Towards Black Applicants?

Is the LSAT Unfair Towards Black Applicants?

The LSAT has always been a standard requirement for law school admissions. Recently, however, many have been questioning the fairness of the exam.

A new study by Aaron N. Taylor, executive director of the AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence, finds that the law school admission process may be marginalizing black applicants with unfavorable outcomes.

“Unfortunately, for many Black applicants who do receive offers of admission, the marginalization process continues,” Taylor writes. “They are often required to pay higher proportions of their law school’s ‘sticker price’ than other students. They are also disproportionately funneled into schools with the least favorable outcomes. Lastly, they are exposed to a curriculum that is presented in a way that alienates Black students and other students from underrepresented backgrounds.”

The Downside of Uniformity

While the LSAT is meant to be a fair diagnostic of law school aptitude, Taylor argues that Black applicants are often unfairly assessed when compared to White applicants.

Among black applicants who scored between 135 and 149 on the LSAT, 55% didn’t get a single admission officer. For White applicants with the same scores, however, only 30% received no admission offers.

“Applicants are assessed based on an ostensibly uniform application of standards,” Taylor writes. “The downside of this uniformity is that it assumes equality of opportunity and too often ignores the unequal backgrounds from which applicants come.”

Student Loans

According to The Balance, the average law school grad graduates with $100,0000 – $200,000 worth of debt.

Blacks and Latinos, according to Taylor, have the highest rates of both borrowing and expected student loan balances. One LSSSE Survey found that 95% of Black respondents and 92% Latino respondents relied on student loans in order to pay for law school. For White respondents, that number was 77%. For Asians, it was 81%.

“Taken together, these trends appear to highlight the impact of inequitable merit scholarship policies on student debt,” Taylor writes. “With less of their tuition discounted, legal education is more expensive for Black and Latino/a students. And because these students are less likely to have access to other sources of funds, disadvantaged students must rely more heavily on loans. The implications of these inequities are vast and long-lasting, and tangibly illustrate the extent of adverse incorporation experienced by these students.”

Re-evaluating The LSAT’s Validity

A number of law schools have begun to change their policies to make the LSAT optional for admissions.

The hope, for many law schools, is that by accepting alternative exams, such as the GRE, they can reach a wider applicant base and—perhaps—have a fairer admissions process.

See the full list of law schools accepting the GRE below:

  • American University Washington College of Law
  • Boston University School of Law
  • Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School
  • Brooklyn Law School
  • Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Columbia Law School
  • Cornell Law School
  • Florida International University College of Law
  • Florida State University College of Law
  • George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School
  • Georgetown University Law Center
  • Hamd Bin Khalifa University Law School
  • Harvard Law School
  • John Marshall Law School
  • Massachusetts School of Law at Andover
  • New York University School of Law
  • Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  • Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law
  • Pennsylvania State University — Penn State Law
  • Pepperdine School of Law
  • John’s University School of Law
  • Suffolk University Law School
  • Texas A&M University School of Law
  • University at Buffalo School of Law
  • University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law
  • University of California, Davis, School of Law
  • University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
  • University of Chicago Law School
  • University of Dayton School of Law
  • University of Hawai’i at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law
  • University of Notre Dame Law School
  • University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • University of Southern California, Gould School of Law
  • University of South Carolina School of Law
  • University of Texas at Austin School of Law
  • University of Virginia School of Law
  • Wake Forest University School of Law
  • Washington University School of Law
  • Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Sources: Florida International University Law Review, The Balance, LSSSE