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GREs for Law School Admission? Bad Idea!

Vivia Chen

August 22, 2017

English-major

Can we cut through the bull about why law schools are now accepting GREs for admission? The fact is that applications are falling, and law schools are desperate for hot bodies to fill their empty seats. (Law schools that now accept the GRE include Harvard, Northwestern and Georgetown, reports The National Law Journal; the first school to do so is University of Arizona.)

Not for one minute do I buy the argument that law schools are now realizing that LSATs aren't the end-all/be-all predictor of future success. As for the argument that allowing the GRE for law school admission will attract more hot commodities like math and science types to apply: Puh-leeze.

If you're a bright young thing with quantitative or tech abilities, there are less painful ways to make a decent living. As any fourth grader in New York knows, the legal profession kinda sucks. Kids see how hard lawyer-parents work (compare to those hedge fund parents who have more fun and make a lot more moolah). And they know it's damn impossible to become equity partner in Big Law these days. 

"The Golden Age for law schools is definitely over," says Paul Caron, dean of Pepperdine Law School. "Harvard and the other schools that have jumped on the GRE bandwagon are undoubtedly seeking to expand their pool of potential students."
 
So if the pool is shrinking, why not use the GRE to lure a wider array of candidates—especially those smarties who might never thought of going to law school? To me, the answer is obvious: They shouldn't go to law school precisely because they didn't have a real interest in the first place. I mean, aren't there already enough people in the profession who lack passion for practice? Walk down the hall of any major law firm, and you find plenty of miserable, lost souls who'd rather be bricklayers or baristas. 
 
I know because I was one of them. Like a lot of liberal arts majors, I went to law school because it seemed like such a respectable default. (Note to English majors: Don't believe it when people tell you that writing well will make you a natural fit for law practice; legal writing is another animal.)
 
I think there should be more, not fewer, barriers to going to law school—at least the type that tests whether you're cut out for the experience. I never thought I'd be defending the LSAT but I will say it gives folks with little knowledge of law a taste of what it means to "think like a lawyer." I'm talking about the logical reasoning section—the stuff that English, history and art majors seldom encountered.

As Kellye Testy, president of the Law School Admission Council (it administers the LSAT), pointed out to NLJ's Karen Sloan: "Analytical reasoning is 25 percent of the LSAT and zero percent of the GRE. Logical and critical reasoning skills are 50 percent of the LSAT, and zero percent of the GRE."

If those topics sound dreary and make you want to dodge the LSATs, then maybe that should tell you something. 

So here's where I stand: Limit law school admissions to that awful, forbidding LSAT. Let there be more, not fewer, barriers to going to law school. (Perhaps include psychological testing, too?)

That might sound restrictive and undemocratic, but people will be happier for it. Believe me.

vchen@alm.com

Comments

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Totally agree with you. The question isn't the admission exam. It's whether there has been a change in thought about what it takes to succeed in law school and in the practice. Although I'm not one who "loves the law", I can vouch that my analytical reasoning, logical and critical reasoning skills have been the key to my success. They'll have to revamp the curriculum to actually teach some skills based classes to law students if they're not screening for that on the front end.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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