The Argument For and Against the LSAT
In early February, the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates rejected a proposal for law schools to go “test optional.” February’s voting was the second time the ABA has rejected proposals to drop the LSAT or other admissions tests—a controversial debate that has divided the legal world.
The New York Times recently explored the debate around the LSAT—and how both sides are arguing on the behalf of diversity.
MOST APPLICANTS STILL TAKE THE LSAT
In recent years, many law schools have opted to accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT as a means of reaching a more diverse applicant pool. Despite the rise of the GRE, most law school applicants still take the LSAT. That’s because the LSAT is still widely regarded as the official admissions test that’s accepted by most law schools in the U.S.
“As it currently stands, only about a third of all law schools accept scores for the GRE in lieu of the LSAT for admission,” Jeff Thomas, executive director of legal programs at Kaplan, tells US News. “That means that unless you plan to apply only to one of those schools that appear on that list, you’ll still need to take the LSAT, which is the only exam accepted by every American Bar Association-accredited law school.”
PROPONENTS FOR DROPPING THE LSAT
Critics of the LSAT argue that the exam unfairly gives wealthy, white applicants an advantage in law school admissions. Research has shown that the LSAT has larger racial disparities than other available admissions factors.
Moreover, schools that have switched to the GRE say the change has prompted new conversations about admissions testing.
“You end up with a vast pool of new potential candidates” under his school’s new system, Marc L. Miller, dean of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, says.
OPPONENTS OF DROPPING THE LSAT
Opponents of dropping the LSAT say they’re open to change, but they’re also cautious of rushing into change. Dropping the LSAT—or testing requirements in general—could cause law schools to become even less diverse, they argue.
“Without the LSAT as a factor, law schools may be less willing to take a chance on students who do not perform well on GPA or other metrics,” Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and Daniel Tokaji, dean of the University of Wisconsin Law School, write in an op-ed. “For example, some students worked to put themselves through school or had to care for family, and they would enhance the diversity of our institutions and our profession. Students who struggle early in college, as sometimes happens with first-generation college students, may have lower initial grades and thus overall lower grade-point averages.”
SO, WHAT’S NEXT?
Even if the council votes to drop the LSAT requirement, law school applicants likely won’t see any changes to admissions until at least 2026. Experts say legal education tends to embrace change slowly—and any change to the LSAT ruling would be unlikely to cause turmoil.
“But such a move could foster curiosity among law schools about more comprehensive and equitable ways to choose winners and losers in the admission process,” Aaron N. Taylor, the executive director of the Center for Legal Education Excellence at AccessLex, a nonprofit organization, says. “And that would be a good thing.”
Sources: The New York Times, Reuters, US News, Bloomberg Law
Next Page: Applying with a Low GPA.
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