American Bar Association votes to retain law school admissions tests requirement

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There is scant evidence that eliminating the LSAT helps schools recruit more minority applicants, according to one law professor

The American Bar Association House of Delegates has rejected a panel proposal that would have eliminated entrance exam requirements for law schools.

The LSAT or another test, such as the GRE, that similarly measures academic performance, will continue to be required for admission to accredited law schools.

“A proposal that would have made law school admissions tests optional is voted down by the ABA House of Delegates after lengthy, spirited debate,” according to an ABA news release from its February midyear meeting.

“The voice vote sends the admissions-test issue back to the Council of ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.”

An American Bar Association panel had previously voted 15-1 to remove the standardized test requirement for law school applicants, effective fall 2025, The College Fix reported. The change would not have prohibited the LSAT, but would have made it optional for schools to require it.

The House of Delegates resolution killed the proposal in February, however, as it did a similar measure in 2018.

There is scant evidence that eliminating the LSAT helps schools recruit more minority applicants, according to one law professor.

“For those concerned about the lack of racial diversity in the legal profession, the question is whether getting rid of the LSAT helps promote law school accessibility for applicants who are members of historically excluded groups,” Jonathan Glater, a professor at University of California, Berkeley School of Law, told The College Fix by email. “No one is sure of the answer.”

“Those who want to keep the LSAT likely fear that in the absence of the test, subjective and biased assessments will make law school less accessible, while those who want to get rid of it hope that more flexibility in admissions will lead to greater access,” he said.

However, other law professors, including deans of law schools, have differing opinions on the effects of the LSAT on racial minority enrollment, The Fix reported.

“Folks of color perform less well on the LSAT than not,” emeritus Dean Leo Martinez of the Hastings College of the Law told The Wall Street Journal last November. “I am sympathetic that it gives people like me a chance.”

Nonetheless, 60 law school deans raised concerns that removing the requirement would harm “diversity” by making schools more reliant on grade point averages, The Fix reported.

The deans wrote in a letter to the ABA that “an unintended consequence” of the change would “be to diminish the diversity of law schools’ incoming classes, by increasing reliance on grade point average and other criteria that are potentially more infused with bias.”

The Fix reached out twice in February by email to Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, Notre Dame Law School, Liberty University School of Law and the ABA media relations department in regard to entrance exams. None have provided comments.

Some law schools have taken advantage of a provision that allows them to require the GRE in place of the LSAT, according to a June 2021 article in U.S. News & World Report.

“A driving force behind the rapid acceptance of the GRE among law schools is a validity study that ETS conducted, which followed the academic careers of students at 21 diverse law schools who had applied using their GRE scores,” according to U.S. News.

“The national study concluded that GRE General Test scores were just as reliable as LSAT scores in predicting academic performance in law school.”

Some law school deans agree.

“We believe the goals of excellence and diversity in legal education and in the profession will be better achieved if the LSAT is not the only standardized test used by law schools,” University of Arizona College of Law Dean Marc Miller stated in a news release. “By using the GRE test … we are able to consider qualified applicants from more diverse backgrounds.”

Some organizations view the removal of LSAT as undermining fairness rather than boosting it.

The Law School Admission Council, which administers the test, said as much in a statement, arguing that “law schools have relied on the LSAT for over half a century to provide an essential common standard to aid in the evaluation of candidates.”

“Today’s climate for legal education demands more commitment to the quality, diversity, and fairness the LSAT provides, not less,” it continued.

“It is tempting during such times of [economic] stress to seek to reduce standards of quality,” the LSAC statement said. “And often these reductions in standards come forward as arguments for innovation and deregulation.”

MORE: Yale and Harvard law schools quit annual rankings report

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