January 14, 2011
The American Bar Association (ABA) is currently reviewing the possibility of making the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) an optional requirement rather than mandatory for law school admissions, JD Journal reported.
Donald J. Polden, dean of the law school at Santa Clara University and chair of the ABA committee overseeing the review, said that the ABA will most likely adopt the new proposition.
"The committee reviewing the standards is leaning toward dropping the rule that law schools require J.D. applicants to take a 'valid and reliable admission test,'" he said.
If the ABA approves the changes, law schools could gain flexibility in making the LSAT optional or dropping it entirely, Inside Higher Ed noted. In recent years, many undergraduate institutions have made standardized tests optional, finding that the change attracted more applicants and a more diverse pool without sacrificing academic performance.
Polden said that dropping the LSAT would provide "greater flexibility for schools to achieve diversity goals in their admitted classes, permitting schools to experiment with admission programs that benefit the school without being penalized by U.S. News ranking changes attributable to those programs..."
Last year, an ABA report criticized law schools for overemphasizing high LSAT averages, which lead to higher rankings from U.S. News & World Report. Experts say the correlation between standardized test scores and rankings has discouraged efforts to promote diversity among law school classes.
According to ABA Journal, however, Polden believes that most law schools will still rely on the LSAT as a way to compare applicants and make financial aid decisions.
A spokeswoman for the Law School Admission Council, which issues the LSAT, said that the organization will not comment until the ABA announces its final recommendation, Inside Higher Ed noted.
Experts assert that erasing the LSAT as a requirement for law school admissions will diversify classes, but some institutions have opposed the test out of principle. According to Robert Shaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, the Massachusetts School of Law "fought against the ABA's arbitrary rule that they require standardized exam scores even if such a policy conflicts with the school's mission."
The Massachusetts School of Law, which eventually lost its battle with the ABA to accredit the nontraditional law program, has a radically different admission process without the inclusion of LSAT scores. The school requires all applicants to have interviews and to write an essay claiming that its more personalized method helps identify talented students who may not score well on the LSAT.
"We want nothing to do with such accreditation because we found out that it was--and remains--elitist, plays a major role in causing ABA tuitions to be over two or three times higher than ours, pays vastly insufficient attention to practical subjects, and goes far to reading the poor and the lower middle class out of law schools and the legal profession," said Lawrence R. Velvel, dean of the school.
Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff
"ABA May Drop LSAT Requirement," insidehighered.com, January 14, 2011, Scott Jaschik
"American Bar Association to Kill LSAT?," jdjournal.com, January 14, 2011
"LSAT Would Be Optional Under Possible ABA Accreditation Change," abajournal.com, January 13, 2011, Debra Cassens Weiss