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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Organ: A Call to Audit Law School Admissions Data

Jerome M. Organ (University of St. Thomas), The Need for Auditing of Law School Admission Data:

In January, the Villanova University School of Law acknowledged that it had knowingly submitted to the ABA inaccurate LSAT and GPA profiles of its entering classes for a couple of years.  More recently, the University of Illinois College of Law acknowledged that it submitted inaccurate data to the ABA for a couple of years and had published on its website inaccurate data about the grades and test scores of this semester’s incoming first-year law school class.  ...

Unlike the employment data discussed above, however, there is an easy way to police law schools through auditing of LSAT and GPA data.  The LSAC maintains a data set reflecting each law school’s LSAT and GPA profile for its matriculants based on the software the LSAC and law schools use to track applicants electronically.  It would be very easy for the LSAC to submit to the Questionnaire Committee a report on each law school’s LSAT and GPA data for its entering class to allow the Questionnaire Committee to cross-check the data submitted by law schools.

A number of pre-law advisors raised this issue with the LSAC at the Pre-Law Advisors National Council Board meeting in March of this year.  At that point, however, the LSAC representative expressed no interest in having the LSAC serve as an auditing check on law schools, noting that the LSAC is a membership organization and that any such action would require the consent of the member law schools.  Daniel Bernstine, the President of the LSAC, recently was quoted in a National Law Journal article:  “That’s just not something we have done historically, and I don’t see why we would.  We are not in the reporting business. We don’t distinguish between our [law school] members.”

Despite President Bernstine’s protestations to the contrary, LSAC is in the reporting business.  It reports annually the aggregated results of those who take the LSAT and jointly with the ABA publishes the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to law schools, in which the inaccurate data from Villanova and Illinois was reported for the last few years.  It also issues a variety of reports to law schools and to pre-law advisors.

The auditing of LSAT and GPA data needs to happen.  Why LSAC should be involved is quite simple – if it is not part of the solution, then it is part of the problem – and right now it is part of the problem.

The auditing can move forward in one of two ways. 

First, law school admissions officers and law school deans can organize themselves and as the “members” of LSAC, can take action within the LSAC governing structure to change policy and to authorize and require LSAC to share data with the Questionnaire Committee to facilitate the Questionnaire Committee’s auditing of the data reported by law schools.  ...

Second, the Standards Review Committee and the Accreditation Committee of the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar could require, as a condition of ongoing accreditation, that each law school consent to have the LSAC release that school’s matriculant profile for LSAT and GPA to the Questionnaire Committee so that the Questionnaire Committee can “audit” or “cross-check” the LSAT and GPA data each law school submits in a given year.

Because some law schools have lacked moral courage and proven incapable of “making the right choice” in assuring that prospective law students have access to accurate and clear data – whether it be regarding employment and salary statistics, the likelihood of non-renewal of competitive scholarships, or most recently, the LSAT and GPA profile of their entering classes – they have opened the door to increased regulation, to mandatory information disclosure and to the possibility of auditing.  While auditing of employment data will be challenging and likely expensive, the auditing of LSAT and GPA data for each law school’s entering class is quite simple and inexpensive.  Law schools would do well to police themselves in this situation by taking action to authorize and require the LSAC to facilitate the auditing of LSAT and GPA data by releasing data to the Questionnaire Committee.  If law schools are not willing to take such action promptly, the Section for Legal Education and Admission to the Bar should require each law school to consent to the disclosure of the LSAC’s LSAT and GPA data for that school as a condition of ongoing accreditation.

In the meantime, there is nothing to prevent any “good citizen” law school from voluntarily providing to the Questionnaire Committee this month its LSAC matriculant report for the Fall 2011 entering class so that the Questionnaire Committee can audit the school’s self-reported LSAT and GPA profile. ...

I have created a survey asking for public input on how best to deal with the data integrity issues associated with LSAT and GPA reporting by law schools.  Please complete the accompanying survey to express your opinion about what, if anything, should be done to improve the integrity of the LSAT and GPA data reported by law schools.

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