- The proposal would allow admission of 25% without a standardized test score
- Fate of LSAT has divided the legal academy
May 9 (Reuters) – Deans from more than half the nation’s law schools are working to salvage a longstanding rule that requires schools to use the Law School Admission Test or other standardized tests when admitting students.
Instead of letting law schools go fully test-optional as planned, the deans want the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to modify the rule to enable schools to admit up to 25% of new students without a standardized test score .
The deans’ proposal represents a compromise between the existing rule, which lets schools admit up to 10% of the class without such scores, and the ABA’s plan to eliminate the standardized test requirement altogether by 2025 in a bid to give schools more flexibility in how they choose students.
The council of the ABA’s legal education section, which oversees law school accreditation standards, is slated to discuss the dean’s proposal when it meets on Friday in Chicago.
The law deans behind the proposal include administrators at elite schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, UC Berkeley, and the University of Michigan as well as deans from lower and unranked schools. They are also asking the ABA to evaluate that change within six years of implementation to ensure it has not led to “unintended consequences,” they wrote last month in a letter to the ABA signed by 125 deans, representing 63% of ABA-accredited law schools.
“Surely, once an admissions test is abandoned it will be hard to reverse course,” their letter reads.
The LSAT rule has been a source of heated debate for years, but the latest push to abolish it begins in early 2022. The proposal has divided the legal academy, with opponents and supporters both focused on its impact on law student diversity and consumer protection.
LSAT supporters have warned that eliminating it would make admissions offices more dependent on subjective measures such as the prestige of an applicant’s college. That could disadvantage minority applicants, they say.
Those who want to get rid of the test requirements have argued that the LSAT is a flawed measure and a barrier for minority would-be lawyers because on average they score below white test-takers. A 2019 study found the average score for Black LSAT takers was 142, compared to 153 for white and Asian test-takers.
The existing rule requires law schools to use a “valid and reliable” test in admissions, with the LSAT and the GRE both accepted. Schools that use any other standardized exam must demonstrate that the test can predict law school performance.
The Law School Admission Council, which administers the LSAT, said on Tuesday that it supports the dean’s proposal.
“We urge the ABA Council to take a step back and adjust its course given the consensus among deans,” it said in a statement.
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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at [email protected]