ABA poised to say ‘buh-bye’ to LSAT

A longstanding requirement of law school admission – taking the LSAT – could be eliminated under a proposal being considered by the American Bar Association.

Currently, law schools must require all applicants to take a “valid and reliable admission test” and consider the test results when making decisions about which students to enroll. The LSAT has been a staple of law schools for more than 50 years, although the ABA has never assessed the test as meeting the “valid and reliable” standard.

Still, the accreditation rules require law schools that rely on anything other than the LSAT to show the alternative accurately evaluates an applicant’s ability to complete a J.D. degree. In recent years, a small but growing contingent of law schools has been accepting GRE scores in place of the LSAT.

Now the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is set to examine a recommendation that would remove the admission test mandate altogether. The Council is scheduled to consider the proposal at its meeting May 11 in Washington, D.C. If it approves the change, the proposition could go before the ABA House of Delegates as early as August.

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law and Notre Dame Law School all require applicants take the LSAT. Valparaiso Law School is not accepting applications for the fall of 2018.

The recommendation is drawing mixed reaction within legal education.

The Society of American Law Teachers supports the elimination of the test mandate, while the Minority Network of law school admission professionals opposes it. SALT argues the LSAT has become over-valued in law school admissions at the expense of students who do not come from privileged backgrounds. The Network conceded that law schools do over-rely on the LSAT, but said requiring one test provides a standard objective measure by which all law students are evaluated.  

A coalition of admissions deans and directors from 22 law schools (none from Indiana) is not for or against the proposal but has concerns about doing away with the LSAT requirement. Specifically, the coalition said the elimination of the mandate would have an adverse impact on the consumer data provided in the Standard 509 Report, which includes the grade point averages and LSAT scores of each incoming class.

“As part of the mandated disclosures, the uniform presentation of LSAT and (undergraduate grade point average) data helps prospective applicants, pre-law advisors and admissions counselors to assess the competitiveness of an applicant in the context of a particular law school’s admission pool,” the coalition wrote in a letter to the ABA. “The requirement that all law schools present their data in the same structured and methodical form also enables fair and equitable comparisons of the credentials of student populations with different institutions.”  

Even if the admission test mandate is eliminated, Barry Currier, ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education, is among those who believe law schools would continue to require an admissions test score from applicants.

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