Paul L. Caron

Sunday, March 19, 2017

NY Times:  Will Dropping The LSAT Requirement Create More Miserable Lawyers?

Harvard GREFollowing up on my previous post, Harvard Is Second Law School To Admit 1Ls Based On GRE Rather Than LSAT:  New York Times Sunday Review, Will Dropping the LSAT Requirement Create More Miserable Lawyers?:

Harvard Law School recently announced that it will no longer require Law School Admission Test scores from applicants, joining the University of Arizona James G. Rogers College of Law in this new policy. Students can now submit scores on the Graduate Record Examination, known as the GRE, instead.

The move might succeed in expanding the pool of applicants. But here’s what it won’t do: increase the number of people in law school who actually want to be lawyers.

See, the LSAT is a speed bump with potential to separate those who truly want to be lawyers — the ones who thrive doing logic games in the same way they’ll relish adding Bluebook-style footnotes to briefs and motions in years to come — from those who just aren’t sure what else to do with their lives. ...

To be fair, some people truly savor the privilege of being a member of the bar. They proudly tack on “Esquire” at the end of their names when introducing themselves at parties or asking to speak with a restaurant manager.

But that’s not most lawyers. For many I’ve met, pursuing a law degree was simply the path of least resistance. (This is anecdotal. I don’t have the statistics because I’m not a math person — another reason I took the LSAT, not the GRE) The end of the LSAT requirement could make defaulting to this option even more convenient. ...

And remember, studying for the LSAT creates a lot of angst — but so will being a lawyer, if being a lawyer isn’t for you.

Above the Law, Harvard Will Make It Easier For People Who Won’t Get Into Harvard To Be Taken Advantage Of:

The LSAT is an entirely artificial barrier, but it’s still an important barrier to entry to legal education. While some might say that legal education should be more accessible to a wider range of people, I contend that the best way to do that would be to lower the price of law school to a point where people didn’t have to go into a lifetime of debt to afford it. The problem with law school is that it costs too much, not that it’s too hard to get into.

The LSAT at least requires people to think critically about whether or not they want legal education, as opposed to just more education. That’s an important distinction, especially when you are asking twenty-somethings to fork over three years and hundreds of thousands of dollars. ...

People will still take the LSAT, of course, because… no math. The GRE has math questions, and math scares people. Hell, for some people half the point of going to law school is to avoid math. The LSAT isn’t going anywhere.

It just won’t be as effective at doing its one useful job: keeping people out of law school who haven’t bothered to think through what law school really means. ... People will end up being accepted to law school who didn’t seriously consider going to law school until their acceptance letter came in the mail. That is a recipe for some disgruntled, trapped “lawyers,” who find themselves living a life they never chose, in too much debt to get out. ...

When lower-ranked schools start accepting the GRE, it’ll be like planting a fig tree in the middle of a tar pit. Kids will see it, think that it seems attainable, and get stuck in the muck long before they reach their goal. I mean, that happens to thousands of law students every year ANYWAY, even with the LSAT acting as a gate around the trap. Remember, some “barriers” are there to protect you. You’re not doing students any favors by allowing them to bypass a test that at least attempts to ascertain if law school is a good fit for the prospective student. ...

It should be hard to get into law school. You shouldn’t just end up there. Accepting the GRE doesn’t make legal education more accessible, it just makes it easier to give law schools all your money. People who end up at Harvard Law School because they couldn’t think of anything better to do (cough cough), we’ll be okay. Maybe HLS really won’t take use the GRE to take advantage of students who haven’t thought things through, but other schools will.

It’s like Harvard wanted to go big game hunting, and so it changed the laws at the game park. They’ll be admiring their stupid mounted trophy when the real poachers move in.

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"Miserable lawyers" has quite the fantasy notion of the money and time that lawyers have. Kinda like taking Wynton Marsalis as the typical result for conservatory graduates, or Tom Cruise as the average acting major's outcome.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Mar 20, 2017 7:22:59 PM

50% of law schools are producing debt-ridden graduates who will never be happy with their profession. They should, in an orderly fashion, close.

Posted by: 30yearProf | Mar 20, 2017 3:06:38 PM

Do people actually study for the LSAT? Serious question. I took it forty years ago and didn't open a book/study guide.

Posted by: tww | Mar 20, 2017 2:19:00 PM

Agreed. People who can't do math shouldn't be lawyers. They should become journalists instead.

Posted by: math | Mar 20, 2017 12:24:53 PM

Those lawyers I see wearing custom tailored suits, taking expensive vacations twice a year, and driving home to their mansions in Westchester in their German luxury cars don't seem so miserable.

Posted by: Miserable lawyers | Mar 20, 2017 12:12:45 PM


But that would limit applicants even more, and the entire purpose of this exercise is to increase the applicant pool so that cash-starved law schools will have a greater selection of loan conduits - at least until the Higher Education Act is reauthorized and GradPLUS loans go away (trust me, it's coming). The ABA will sooner allow law schools to use SAT and ACT scores than advocate for a math section of the LSAT.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Mar 20, 2017 10:05:14 AM

I see a very good way to improve the LSAT: add math to it. Applicants who are scared away shouldn't be lawyers anyway. It's not that they're bad at math--- it's that they're not brave or hard-slogging enough.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Mar 20, 2017 6:30:18 AM

I fully agree. Law is like medicine and nursing. It needs a gatekeeping process to filter out people unsuited for the work.

As strange as it sounds, both medical and nursing schools graduate people who discover that they don't enjoy caring for sick people. They often go into administration, where their dislike of patients becomes a dislike of the doctors and nurses under them, creating a host of morale woes that I describe in Senior Nurse Mentor. I've saw the bad results at a hospital. I suspect others can describe similar problems at law firms.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Mar 20, 2017 6:04:33 AM