Increasingly, law schools are looking for an admissions path that forgoes the traditional entrance exam, the LSAT. And no, this isn’t another story about the emergence of the GRE in the law school game. While proponents of the GRE have long touted increased diversity as a net benefit for law schools accepting the exam for admissions, in the wake of the Supreme Court killing affirmative action, many law schools are looking for something more.
Forty-seven of the 197 American Bar Association accredited law schools have received approval to use the JD-Next program in admissions. JD- Next is not your typical standardized test. As reported by Law.com:
JD-Next is a fully online program that includes an eight-week course covering doctrinal concepts and legal skill workshops culminating in a final exam.
Marc Miller, dean and Ralph W. Bilby professor of law at the University of Arizona law school, along with Jess Findley, the director of JD-Next, and Christopher Robertson, the founding principal investigator of JD-Next and an associate dean for strategic initiatives at Boston University School of Law, have been developing the JD-Next exam as an alternative law school admissions test for past five years.
Karen Sloan at Reuters also notes that Georgetown University Law Center and Washburn University School of Law have gotten the okay from the ABA to launch their own programs that allow candidates to apply for admission without a standardized exam. And all these alternative admissions options are designed to increase diversity.
Administrators behind these LSAT alternatives say they are looking for ways to identify promising law students for whom that test poses a hurdle and bring in more diverse applicants. Critics say the LSAT is a barrier for aspiring minority lawyers because on average those individuals score below white test-takers, and because law schools rely too heavily on those scores. LSAT critics say the exam is biased, while others say score gaps reflect larger racial disparities within the education system. A 2019 study found the average score for Black LSAT takers was 142, compared with 153 for white and Asian test-takers.
The effort to diversify the profession may have gotten more difficult, but these programs prove law schools are still willing to do the work.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.