Paul L. Caron

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Is Wake Forest Law School's Offer To Pay Students To Take The GRE A U.S. News Rankings Ploy?

Wake Forest Law School (2016)Above the Law, This Law School Will Pay You To Take The GRE To Save Its U.S. News Rank From The Dreaded LSAT:

Law schools have been trying to do away with using the LSAT as an admissions requirement for quite some time. The ABA first took up the idea of axing the LSAT in 2011, and then in 2014, instituted a new rule that would allow some law schools (i.e., law schools connected to a university or college with an undergraduate program) to fill up to 10 percent of their entering classes with students who hadn’t taken the LSAT. Several law schools, including SUNY Buffalo, Drake, the University of Iowa, the University of Hawaii, and St. John’s University quickly rushed to begin enrolling students without LSAT scores. Just one year later, the ABA voted to repeal its LSAT exemption rule, effective with the incoming class of fall 2017.

Now that evidence of the great law school brain drain is on display for all the world to see, with LSAT profiles of matriculants dipping lower and lower every year, law school administrators are trying even harder to find a way to weasel out of having to admit students who have taken the LSAT (unless, of course, their LSAT scores are amazing; those students are allowed to continue taking the LSAT, if only because those high scores will help the law school’s U.S. News ranking instead of hurting it).

What are law schools trying to do now to keep the LSAT far, far away from their U.S. news ranking? At Wake Forest University School of Law ... has teamed up with Educational Testing Service (ETS) and two other law schools to see if the GRE would work as an alternative to the LSAT for law school admissions, and the school needs assistance from both current students and recent graduates for some experimentation. ...

How desperate is Wake Forest to get rid of the LSAT? Wake Forest is so desperate that it’s willing to pay people to take a standardized test with a math component. Yikes.

An astute tipster had this to say about Wake Forest’s plans to escape the LSAT:

How can this be read as anything other than borderline panic about the future of legal education? Though realistically this is nothing but a bunch of hot air; Wake, like every lower Tier-1 school, will do anything it can to keep itself from falling out of the top 50 in USNWR. Perhaps they think this will be a loophole whereby they can jack up the LSAT stats and fill out the rest of the class with GRE applicants for a year or two before USNWR catches on.

Will Wake Forest’s GRE gamble work? Would the ABA even deign to consider using the GRE instead of the LSAT? At the very least, you know the ABA is willing to try anything for a year, so we suppose we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, we hope Wake Forest students and graduates are brushing up on their algebra and geometry skills.

Press Release, Wake Forest Law Joins Two Other Schools in Blazing Trail for Possible New Sandardized Testing Option

Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink


Maybe I'm less cynical than others, but I see this as a great thing. The LSAT has held its monopolistic hold over the law school world because it is the only test validated for law school according to the ABA's standards. In other words, the ABA requires schools to require a "validated test"...and takes pains to say it doesn't require the LSAT...but then the only test they acknowledge/accept as validated is the LSAT!

I'm glad some law schools are stepping up to do this research.

It won't JUST benefit Wake Forest, by the way. If they can prove the GRE is validated, theoretically it could be considered validated across the spectrum and would allow any law school to accept it in lieu of the LSAT.

The LSAC needs a competitor and ETS is as good a competitor as ever.

(consider this fun fact: you can basically take the GRE anywhere in the country, and most of the world, on any day you choose, in your neighborhood, on a computer, at any number of testing centers. The LSAT is only offered, on paper, a few specified times a year, at specific LSAT testing sites. This only BENEFITS potential law school students. AND would be an immense - and well-deserved- pressure on LSAC to get it together and get into the 21st century.)

Posted by: justmythoughts | Jan 31, 2016 12:06:54 PM

A law school education should speak for itself. Toyota, Honda and Subaru sell cars without spiffs, incentives, cash back deals, and rebates. Same deal here. The problem is that the law school "brand" is tarnished brand like Cadillac. What once was exclusive and prestigious is now "ordinary." Cadillacs suffered because of lowered quality, rental cars, cheap leases and to this day, look a like cars. You either get a 40K gussied up Hyundai or an 85K chromed up Suburban. With an oversaturated legally market and no work, law schools have "cheapened" the brand to stay in business. The best and the brightest know this....

Posted by: Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King | Jan 30, 2016 2:17:58 PM

The LSAT has been validated as a predictor of first-year law school grades. The GRE has not. Interpretation 503-1 states: "A law school that uses an admission test other than the Law School Admission Test sponsored by the Law School Admission Council shall demonstrate that such other test is a valid and reliable test to assist the school in assessing an applicant’s capability to satisfactorily complete the school’s program of legal education." I am skeptical that Wake Forest will be able to do so.

Having said this, I do not view Wake Forest's move as an attempt to game its reported LSAT scores. There is nothing in the school's offer that would target the bottom of its pool. If the top of its pool accepts the school's offer differentially, then the school's reported LSATs will fall, not rise.

Moreover, there is a good business reason to attempt to validate the GRE for law school admissions purposes. Over 300,000 Americans and 200,000 non-Americans take the GRE each year. Only roughly 100,000 take the LSAT. If the GRE becomes accepted for law school admissions, this would expand the pool of potential law school applicants five-fold. Some number of GRE takers might apply to law school who otherwise would not.

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Jan 30, 2016 12:53:49 PM

This is a good idea, not a bad one. The ABA improperly established and maintains the LSAT's monopoly on law-school-admissions testing. I don't see anything at all wrong with empirically exploring whether another admissions test might serve the same purposes, just as effectively, as does the LSAT.

Posted by: jason yackee | Jan 30, 2016 11:46:38 AM