Future of Law Schools: Impact of LSAT and Ranking Changes
There are a number of shifts happening now at law schools. Top law schools across the country are boycotting the US News rankings and the ABA recently voted to do away with mandatory LSAT admissions requirement. Experts say these changes could help bring about more diverse student bodies.
Bloomberg Law recently explored why these two changes are significant and how they might just change law school for the better.
WHAT EFFECT DOES THE RANKINGS BOYCOTT HAVE?
At least nine top law schools have announced that they’ll no longer take part in the US News ranking. Most of the law schools that have withdrawn from the rankings—including Yale Law and Harvard Law—argue that the US News ranking methodology discourages schools from promoting careers in public service.
“In recent years, we have invested significant energy and capital in important initiatives that make our law school a better place but perversely work to lower our scores,” Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken said in a Nov. 16 statement. “That’s because the U.S. News rankings are profoundly flawed—they disincentivize programs that support public interest careers, champion need-based aid, and welcome working-class students into the profession.”
Some experts say that the US News rankings boycott may allow for law schools to take more chances in advancing greater justice for next generation of legal professionals.
“What they’ve been preaching is, ‘oh, we have holistic admissions, we take into account other criteria,’ but the reality of it is they’re very attentive, as I was when I was dean, to, the median LSAT scores, because of how significant it is for the rankings,” Daniel Rodriguez, a professor and former dean at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, says.
But not all law schools are on the same page about the boycott. Cornell Law School Dean Jens David Ohlin said in a Nov. 23 statement that “withdrawal from the rankings process will not have the desired impact that many assume that it will have.”
“The reality is that U.S. News & World Report is a journalistic enterprise, and they don’t need anyone’s permission, including mine, to publish a ranking, and they have ready access to information from the ABA and other public sources to construct their rankings,” Ohlin said.
SHIFT AWAY FROM THE LSAT
Last month, the ABA voted to move away from requiring law schools to use the LSAT or other standardized tests for admissions. Many critics of the LSAT argue that standardized testing favors wealthy applicants who have resources to pay for expensive test prep. And research has shown that the LSAT has larger racial disparities than other admissions factors.
Experts say the move away from the LSAT in admissions could open doors for more diversity among law school campuses. But increasing student diversity isn’t as easy as it seems.
Doing away with the LSAT requirement “could open up the path to law school to different kinds of people, but, in practice, it’s not some kind of magic wand that a school can just wave,” says Anna Ivey, who wrote The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions. Ivey highlights that at some schools with test-optional policies, student diversity increased. While at other schools with similar test-optional policies, student diversity didn’t improve.
“It would still require each individual school to really reexamine its institutional priorities,” Ivey adds. “But it would give both the schools and the applicants more flexibility.”
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