Getting into law school shouldn't be easy

·3 min read
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An American Bar Association panel on Friday voted to seek public comment on a proposal eliminating the mandatory testing requirement for law school admissions, subsequently throwing the fate of the infamous LSAT (as well as the now-permitted GRE) into question. Though the ABA withdrew a similar motion in 2018, the proposal would, if approved, mark a significant shift in a decades-long system. Notably, schools could still require either or both tests if they so choose.

An official policy change is likely months away, if it happens at all. Still, there are plenty of opinions mixed up in the debate over the LSAT.

It's as much a speed bump as a barrier to entry

Those in support of a testing requirement have argued that it discourages weaker applicants from wasting time and money on law school, Reuters reports. Albeit a bit more cynically, The Nation's justice correspondent Elie Mystal argued this point back in 2015, positing that any attempt at eliminating the LSAT is, in his opinion, just a thinly-veiled higher-education cash grab. "Instead of dropping $170 on a fee, plus whatever you spend on a prep course, to figure out if you might actually be good at law school," Mystal wrote for Above The Law, "[law schools] want to strike down any barrier that might make you reconsider taking on $150,000 or more in debt."

The Law School Admissions Council, the group in charge of administering the LSAT and overseeing the larger law school application process, argues that its test is "a vital tool for schools and applicants" and "the most accurate predictor of law school success."

…but it's still a barrier to entry

Those who support doing away with the testing requirement have said it hinders efforts to diversify legal education and the legal profession, Reuters writes, especially considering, for one thing, the costs associated with successfully preparing and taking these exams. Many undergraduate programs have also begun eliminating entrance tests for similar reasons.

Andrew Strauss, dean and professor at the University of Dayton's Law School, told Higher Ed Dive he believes any such change would create a "very different kind of climate around" law school admissions. With mandated LSATs off the table, schools would be free to more closely focus on different applicant qualifications, like GPAs, pre-law courses, or interviews, he added.

The LSAC, meanwhile, has argued dropping the test requirement could actually work against diversity, because "without the test scores, you reward privilege more than potential," as LSAC president Kellye Testy recently told The Wall Street Journal.

Getting in shouldn't be easy

In 2017, Harvard dropped its LSAT requirement and began allowing applicants to submit GRE scores instead — presumably, Jim Saksa wrote for Slate, to allow for a test "that's easier to take and easier to master." But "that's the exact opposite of what law schools should be doing" since it "should be more difficult, not less so, to get into law school, because the last thing we need are more lawyers." In 2021, the American Bar Association officially recognized the GRE as an alternative law school admissions exam.

In his 2015 column, Mystal opined similarly to Saksa: "Law school is already the recycling bin for the useless humanities degrees of the world," he wrote. Deans should be more concerned with making their program "reasonable, affordable, and valuable" for the people who actually want to be there, rather than "suckering" those "who don't know what they want to do with their lives" into law.

Just don't forget about the bar

Whatever the LSAT's fate, prospective students mustn't forget they'll be required to take the notoriously difficult bar exam to practice law upon graduation, lawyer Jonathan Wolf recently mused for Above The Law. If your hang-up with the LSAT and/or the GRE is that standardized tests are hard, just remember what's on the other side of that degree, "before you have wasted three years of your life and hundreds of thousands of dollars," he wrote.

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