Will More Law Schools Eschew the LSAT?

Mar 14, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Harvard Law School made news recently by announcing that it will now accept both LSAT and GRE scores as part of its admissions process. The goal? To break down barriers to admission while attracting the best and brightest talent from diverse backgrounds. Will more law schools follow suit? Here’s a closer look at Harvard’s move, along with what it means for law schools and law students.

The Impact of the LSAT

According to LSAT performance expert William Henderson as reported by The Christian Science Monitor, LSAT scores factor significantly into US News & World Report rankings, leading schools to prioritize students who score well. The problem, Henderson says? “There’s not a really strong correlation between interesting people who are going to make a contribution to this world and an LSAT score in the 170s or higher.”

Not only that, but the heavy reliance on LSAT scores favor students with the resources to invest in preparing for the test. Doing away with the LSAT requirement, meanwhile, “will allow [law schools] to admit the very best people independent of LSAT scores,” according to Henderson.

Harvard’s own findings back Henderson’s claim: GRE scores were determined to be as accurate a predictor of law school performance as the LSAT.

A Unilateral Shift?

While Harvard’s policy change may be the most publicized, it wasn’t the first. University of Arizona College of Law eliminated the LSAT requirement last year, followed by two other schools. Insiders suggest that more may soon get in on the trend, and even the American Bar Association is considering rethinking its standards regarding the LSAT. As Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow told The Christian Science Monitor, “We look forward to working with the American Bar Association on finding the most effective ways to encourage the best students to enter the legal profession.”

The reversal is not without its share of detractors, however. Some fear that it's just a ploy to fill empty sets or bypass US World & News Report scrutiny. Others fear it will result in an influx of unprepared students into law school leading to skyrocketing student debt and a flagging job market.

Still, making the process less about a number and more about a candidate’s overall profile is ultimately a win-win for schools, students and the field of law alike, insists Henderson: “Harvard is the game-changer,” he told The Christian Science Monitor. “Think about all the great professional athletes that weren’t first round picks. This allows you to look for nontraditional criteria.”

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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