Law School Applications Dip for First Time in Three Years

ABA Officially Allows Law Schools to Use GRE in Admissions

Law schools are now permitted to require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) instead of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for admissions.

The ABA officially announced the decision, made by the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, Tuesday, Inside Higher Ed reports.

“The council also voted to permit law schools to accept GRE test scores from applicants in lieu of an LSAT score,” the official description of council activities states. “The council reminds schools that the use of test scores to make admissions decisions is subject to Standard 501(a)’s requirement that a school adhere to ‘sound admission policies and practices,’ and that a law school may not admit applicants who do not ‘appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.’ The council also reminds schools that although [a rule] does not prescribe the weight that law schools must give to an applicant’s test score, it does require law schools to use admissions tests in a manner consistent with the test developer’s current guidelines regarding the proper use of the results.”

MORE THAN 70 LAW SCHOOLS ALLOW GRE

As of today, more than 70 law schools allow applicants to submit GRE scores in lieu of the LSAT. The University of Arizona law school was the first to begin accepting the GRE back in 2016. Harvard University followed suit in 2017. Proponents of the GRE in admissions argue that it opens legal education to more people.

“The reason many schools are now accepting the GRE, as well as the LSAT, in law school admissions is generally cited as part of a larger effort to make law school more accessible to students from diverse backgrounds,” Rachel Margiewicz, of the National Jurist, writes. “By accepting the GRE, schools are expanding the scope of their application pool.”

Yet, a recent report commissioned by the ABA in September urged caution over law schools fully embracing the GRE.

“There are obviously significant questions about the content validity and reliability of the GRE for law school admission, but we are not going to second-guess this decision,” a spokesperson for the Law School Admission Council, tells Inside Higher Ed. “The council has been allowing law schools to accept the GRE for at least five years, and yet it still amounts to only 1 percent of all matriculants. We will continue to innovate to ensure that the LSAT remains the gold standard for law school admission, and we will deliver unparalleled programs and services specifically designed to attract and help diverse, talented individuals succeed.”

Despite some top law schools accepting the GRE, a majority of law schools still prefer the LSAT for admissions—a sign that the GRE still has a long way to go in law school admissions.

“Until now, only a trickle of applicants have taken the GRE route, but this latest news might turn that into at least a steady stream if every law school—right now it’s only about one-third of all law schools—says that not only will they accept GRE scores, but also that applicants who submit GRE scores will not be at an admissions disadvantage compared to applicants who submit LSAT scores,” Jeff Thomas, executive director of legal programs of Kaplan, tells Inside Higher Ed. “That’s been a concern among some applicants, we know, and a prior Kaplan survey among law schools found that even among law schools that accept scores from both tests, many have a preference for the LSAT. If there is a perceived bias, it’s hard to see how the GRE will truly take off.”

Sources: Inside Higher Ed, Reuters