Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The First Two Law Schools to Drop the LSAT Could Be Just the Beginning

Bloomberg, The First Two Law Schools to Drop the LSAT Could Be Just the Beginning:

Two law schools said this month that they would begin accepting applicants who have not taken the Law School Admissions Test, a move that may help curb weak interest and plunging enrollments in law schools across the country. The State University of New York-Buffalo Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law said they would admit students from their respective undergraduate colleges based on their grade point average and scores on standardized tests other than the LSAT. ...

The two schools are the first to announce that they've taken advantage of a recent ruling by the American Bar Association, which accredits U.S. law schools. In August, the ABA changed its rules to allow law schools to fill up to 10 percent of their class with students who have not taken the LSAT, as long as they were at the top of their college class and scored highly on the SAT and ACT, college aptitude tests, or on the GRE or GMAT graduate school exams.

Additional law schools will probably follow. Before the ABA loosened its standards, around 15 schools had successfully applied for special dispensation to admit some students without LSAT scores, and Barry Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education at the ABA, expects these and other programs to take advantage of new rules allowing them to do so without informing the ABA. ...

Law schools could apply for an even more liberal application of the new rule: ditching the LSAT for more than 10 percent of the class and using a different standardized test as an admissions gauge for those students if they can conclusively show that the exam is as good a predictor of academic achievement as the LSAT. As further schools begin experimenting with admissions, the composition of incoming law school classes could change, and the LSAT could lose standing as an exclusive ticket to law school.

The Spectrum, UB Law School Without the LSAT: A Crime Against Competition:

These initiatives favor UB students too strongly and make the law school appear far less competitive.

Rather than attracting students willing to study intensely for the LSAT, UB’s law school will now appeal to students who worry they’ll poorly on the test. And for undergraduates who did well at UB, but lack direction or career goals, the law school now looks like a safe haven – somewhere for aimless, jobless graduates to take refuge.

Graduate programs are competitive for a reason. They should accept only the best of the best, because classes are challenging and competition is fierce. Law school is difficult. Applying should be, too.

(Hat Tip: Greg McNeal.)

Legal Education | Permalink


Univ. of San Diego is doing this too.

Posted by: Dave K | Mar 1, 2015 9:30:12 PM

The ABA is a textbook example of regulatory capture. Despite the publicity of a crisis in legal education since 2008 (nb: the crisis started much earlier, it just was exposed in 2008 to the mass public), the ABA and the law schools have done almost zero to address it or to reform. Instead, the ABA has enacted a few regulatory changes that are MORE FAVORABLE to the law schools. This is one of them. Also see the 10 month rather than 9 month change for reporting data, etc., etc., etc.

You earned this crisis, legal education, and its tarnish will remain on the field until you change.

Posted by: Jojo | Feb 26, 2015 5:40:06 AM

To Former editor:

These matriculant's GPA's are counted in the 25th/50th/75th GPA figures, and the schools' LSAT calculation excludes any figure for these students, the effect of which *is* to, as you put it, "effectively mask the worst 10% of scorers, pushing all the other quartile numbers up" which is why it's so appealing to law schools, really a lifeline, if you will...The 509 does list the number of students that were not included in the LSAT calculation (i.e., had no LSAT score) for the particular cohort, but there is no corresponding negative effect on the LSAT calculations. So, I'd expect to see "splitters" (high LSAT low GPA) becoming highly sought after, because the hit to the GPA can be made up for with this new boondoggle.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 25, 2015 5:07:56 PM

I'm assuming that anyone using an alternative exam will not be included in the ABA statistics. There's an extremely high correlation among standardized tests so a 95th percentile on the GRE or GMAT will mean you'll do as well on the LSAT. If you have the ability to do well on standardized tests, definitely take the LSAT so you can get a good scholarship. This smells like a way, at least among the early adopters, to get quality students without having to compete with other law schools.

Posted by: PaulB | Feb 25, 2015 3:25:43 PM

Does anyone know how the 10% is accounted for in the 509 reporting? In other words, if 10% of the class is admitted without an LSAT score, are the non-scores counted as the bottom 10% of the reported quartiles or are they excluded from the set of LSAT scorers entirely? The way it goes could make a significant difference in reported LSAT quartile figures. The latter option could effectively mask the worst 10% of scorers, pushing all the other quartile numbers up.

Posted by: Former Editor | Feb 25, 2015 1:57:34 PM

In my mind, a 3.5 GPA from Buffalo in a fluff, non STEM major (no offense to Buffalo, but it's Buffalo, heck the same holds for Iowa, and most other non-elite universities), plus a somewhat respectable GRE score (the GRE is NOT comparable in terms of rigor, and testing abilities that are useful in law school, and more importantly, aptitude for passing the bar), is just as concerning as the sub 150 LSAT scoring folks, because these are the kids that would likely score in the 130's/140's if they took the LSAT, we'll just never see the problem until they fail the bar. This is really bad.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 25, 2015 1:46:58 PM

This isn't new. Rutgers - Camden got fined for admitting "dozens" of students without the LSAT in what...2012? 2010? A couple of years ago anyhow.

Then the ABA turned around and "clarified" its rule to allow up to 10% of the class [wholly arbitrary number] to be admitted without the LSAT if the law school was accepting from its associated undergraduate school [also, wholly arbitrary].

I think the ABA wrote an arbitrary rule so that it would be legally challenged and then all the schools can go 100% LSAT-free, because the LSAT is too hard, even though one cannot fail it...

Decline and fall.

Posted by: This Isn't New | Feb 25, 2015 1:33:21 PM

Honestly, looking at the Iowa standards, I am a lot less concerned about this mini-trend than I am about the 44 or 45 law schools whose median LSAT is a 150 or below, including at least a few with 25th percentiles dipping into the 130's.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Feb 25, 2015 1:06:34 PM

Note the year. Starting law school in 2015 may become a bad mark on a lawyer's resume. It may suggest not just that he was a part of a less-than-brilliant student body, but that the dumbing down of incoming students led to a lowering of law school expectations from everyone.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Feb 25, 2015 1:06:19 PM

The race to the bottom for the legal profession is accelerating at the behest of desperate law schools. At some point the guild will have to push back against the law schools before they run the profession into oblivion. 3.5 GPA + a decent SAT or GRE (joke test) score? C'mon, so now the people with work and life experience are going to potentially be disfavored for some snot nosed undergrad, so the schools can fill seats, make payroll, and eliminate that pesky LSAT score that is their scourge of their admissions offices during these times? The implications of this, even at the 10% limit, are so profound it's beyond belief. Lawyers must push back.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 25, 2015 12:56:34 PM