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Kill the LSAT? Are You Nuts?

Vivia Chen

January 13, 2011

  IStock_000012973521XSmall I'm no fan of standardized testing, but I'm not cheering the possible elimination of the LSAT either. According to The National Law Journal, the ABA is considering making the LSATs voluntary rather than mandatory for admission to law schools under its accreditation standards.

"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,'" chairman Donald Polden, dean of Santa Clara University School of Law, told the NLJ. 

One reason the ABA committee is thinking of dumping the LSAT requirement is to give schools more autonomy over their own admissions. "Is taking a standardized test the only way to determine if someone should be able to go to law school? Schools ought to be able to decide how they want to admit students," said Loyola University Chicago School of Law dean David Yellen, a member of the review committee, to the NLJ. (Yellen also said that he "personally is on the fence about the LSAT requirement.")

Another factor, noted Yellen, is that the Law School Admission Council, which administers the LSAT, is "a wealthy institution. . . . So many people take the LSAT. Why is the ABA ensuring its future success?"

Members of the the fraternity of law schools worrying about unjust enrichment in the legal education field? Really?

I never thought I'd be defending the LSAT, but here I go. First of all, given the plight of jobless law school graduates saddled with hundred of thousands of dollars in debt, why are we encouraging measures that will likely encourage more jobless lawyers?

My hunch is that the law schools that won't require LSATs will be either newly opened law schools looking for bodies or those rated at the bottom. As we all know too well, law schools have been sprouting in this country like pesky mushrooms on a soggy lawn. And unfortunately, there seems to be an ample supply of aspiring lawyers who are willing to shell out the money to go to law school--any law school. (Also unfortunate is that they all seem to gain accreditation--eventually.) 

I fear that schools that don't require the extra hurdle of the LSAT will attract even more applicants (probably some very weak ones, who shouldn't be in law school in the first place)--and that the cycle of bad schools and jobless graduates will escalate.

My bet is that established law schools will continue to require LSATs. Indeed, ABA committee members Polden and Yellen told NLJ that they "believe that most schools would continue to require the LSAT, in part because it is the most reliable way to measure applicants against each other and make merit-based financial aid decisions."

Eliminating the LSAT serves the law school business, not the consumers of those institutions. Is there any doubt that we should make it harder for people to go to law school? If taking the LSAT or getting a low score on the LSAT will stop people from rushing to law school, isn't that a form of public service?


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Need a lwyer??!?!?!?!?!?!

Ms. Chen may know about standardized tests, but she has not looked into the LSAC that administers them. It is an autocratic body that was sued by the US DOJ for blatant discrimination against people with disabilities and has largely ignored the settlement for several years since.

What is wrong with giving law schools voluntary autonomy to make decisions. I would bet that grads of the top law schools will not hear "but you did not take the LSAT" from future employers. The schools will figure out how to protect their brands.

a nation of lawyers is a bad thing because most of them will be up to their eyeballs in law school debt and will not have the income to repay it.

The reasoning behind making it voluntary for law schools to consider LSAT scores seems unsound. Most colleges and universities require not one, but two potential standardized test scores in their admissions process.

The LSAT has nothing to do with legal analysis or one's aptitude to being a good lawyer. It 's merely a screening device that often unfairly prevents otherwise capable persons from becoming lawyers. Success in law school is the relevant factor for employment opportunities. A world full of lawyers, employed or unemployed as attorneys, is a better, smarter world. Law schools are very capable of setting their own criteria for admission rather than relying on a standardized test of questionable relevance to the legal profession.

The LSAT is biased towards figuring out how well a student will do in the first year and has nothing to do with how well the student will do later in the practice of law. I see some value in it as a screening devices but it should only be one option. Recent scholarship at UC Berkley has suggested at a test more geared towards whether the student has the mojo to succeed in the real world of law might be a better alternative to the LSAT. I think the UC Berkley scholarship on the topic needs to be given serious consideration and would be more useful in helping a student know if they should invest in law school or seek more practical alternatives.

Those tests are all about making money and they keep well qualified individuals out of law school.

The tests are irrelevant to the job of lawyer-ing. they should be eliminated and law schools should be able to admit as many students as they desire.

after all, you learn how to be a lawyer on the job.
I am a paralegal. I would like to be come a lawyer, what stops me is taking that stupid LSAT.

Joe Simiriglio Jr

Not really sure why a nation of lawyers is a bad thing; perhaps the respondent is overlooking the fact that attorneys are more likely to be better-informed politically, more likely to actively analyze information on political candidates (not to mention the fact that most politicians are themselves attorneys), and all I see here is the enhanced possibility of Americans becoming more politically astute and politically active. There remains the problem of how do all those law school loans get paid off, but given that the majority of them are guaranteed by Uncle Sam (the public trough), the banks and other lenders have nothing to worry about, the system already takes care of itself, everybody gets paid, and the taxpayer foots the bill for any defaults. Who loses if there is no LSAT requirement? the LSAC. WHo loses if the LSAT requirement continues? Potentially great lawyers who just happen to be unable to pass a very difficult test. I just cannot see it mattering very much one way or the other.

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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: [email protected]

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