Put simply, I did not enjoy preparing for the LSAT. Not only was the prep course expensive, the logic games component shot any aspirations I had of being a party planner. If anyone even thinks of asking me what to do in a situation where Amy wants to sit near Steven but Steven has to sit across from Stacy and Stacy can’t be within two sets of Michael, I immediately break out in hives. (Un)fortunately, I will have this trauma as an empathy touchstone for aspiring esquires, as some form of test, likely the LSAT, will continue to be a thing for entry to accredited law schools. From, who’d have thunk it, the ABA Journal:
A proposed revision to a law school accreditation standard that removes an entrance exam requirement was rejected Monday by the ABA House of Delegates, at the organization’s midyear meeting in New Orleans.
Resolution 300 was brought by the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and called for cutting the test requirement in Standard 503. A similar measure, which suggested cutting the standard all together, was brought by the section in August 2018, but withdrawn shortly before the House gathered.
This decision came after fierce debate on both sides. Why? Well, as mentioned above, logic games stoke a calm fury in some people. I am some people. But the were motivations for and against requiring an entrance exam were just as strong for those who have a better grasp of conditional reasoning and scenarios involving generic ass names — namely equity.
Many spoke in favor and against the resolution, but for the most part, all agreed on one thing—their position would help diversity in legal education.
While law schools can now use the GRE as an entrance exam, many still use the LSAT. Joseph West, chair of the council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, noted that the LSAT has been used for some time, yet diversity in the profession remains abysmal.
Angela Winfield, the Law School Admission Council’s vice president and chief diversity officer, spoke against the resolution. Citing LSAC data, she said that for Black law school applicants who had undergraduate GPAs between 3.0 and 3.24 and did not submit LSAT scores, the group had a 15% acceptance rate. White applicants in the same category had a 35% acceptance rate.
For Black and white law school applicants with that GPA range with LSAT scores in the 145 to 149 range, the acceptance rate was 52%, according to Winfield.
A compelling argument for the continued need of a standardized test is that it would establish a baseline for admittance that is more reliable than GPAs from various schools and disciplines. For example, how do you weigh someone’s 4.2 GPA in Basket weaving with a someone else’s 3.1 GPA and accompanying bachelor’s in Theoretical Physics? I mean, we all know the real answer is that the weight goes to the person who studied Basket weaving, they’re actually interacting with tangible objects that can be sold on Etsy, after all — just try selling enough copies of your treatise on why the inconsistencies inherent to the standard model won’t be overcome by the experimentation made possible by the Large Hadron Collider to pay rent this month, Steven.
But you get my point, not having some kind of test would be fertile ground for bias to sow.
Additionally, during notice and comment for the proposed revision, more than 55 deans of ABA-accredited law schools sent a letter to the council, arguing that removing a law school admissions test could increase school’s reliance on grade point averages and “other criteria that are potentially more infused with bias.”
Law school deans were not the only ones to chime in with their thoughts on the usefulness of the exam. Kaplan’s Amit Schlesinger, their executive director of legal programs, had this to say:
“This is not the first time the American Bar Association came really close to adopting a rules change on the standardized test requirement before pulling back at the last moment. Considering the potential significance this rule change would have had on the law school admissions landscape and its impact on aspiring lawyers, it’s understandable why it was not successful at this time, though it’s clear there is a wide variety of opinions and it may be revisited. According to Kaplan’s 2022 law school admissions officers survey, completed this past October, of the 82 law schools we spoke with, a full half said they plan to keep the standardized testing requirement in place for their own school, even if the American Bar Association eliminated the requirement. Only a handful said they would drop the requirement, while others were undecided on next steps. Ultimately, we believe that most law schools would still have kept a testing requirement in place, for a few major reasons, including its ability to act as a control mechanism by helping them identify who may or may not succeed in their program and pass the bar exam; its potentially harmful impact on diversity efforts, by forcing them to rely more heavily on less standardized and more subjective factors; and the potential impact it could have on their place in the rankings, although some top law schools have recently withdrawn from that process.
“If the rules change had been adopted, we think many, if not most, applicants would have continued to submit a LSAT or GRE score, even if they were not required to by a particular law school. A strong score sets you apart from the competition. It remains and would remain the great differentiator.
“The reality is that regardless of what the ABA may ultimately decide in the future, major changes to admissions policies do not happen overnight. It’s an issue we’ll continue to track. And as always, we’ll provide students with accurate information to help them make smart decisions about their educational and career paths.”
Admissions Test Requirement For ABA-Accredited Law Schools Will Remain In Place For Now [ABA Journal]
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at email@example.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.
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