Paul L. Caron

Saturday, February 18, 2023

After ABA House Of Delegates Rejected Proposal To Let Law Schools Be Test-Optional, 21-Member ABA Council Votes To Resubmit It With Only One Dissenter: 'There Is More Education To Be Done'

New York Times, Do Law Schools Need the LSAT? Here’s How to Understand the Debate.:

ABA (2022)One part of the American Bar Association is trying to drop the test requirement for law schools, while another has voted to retain it — and both sides say diversity is the reason.

A long and lawyerly debate is underway at the American Bar Association over a question that could have lasting consequences for diversity in legal education: Should taking the LSAT be mandatory for people applying to law school?

Today, law schools accredited by the bar association must require applicants to take a “valid and reliable” admission test — in most cases, students take the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT. The association is considering dropping that requirement, and letting each law school decide for itself whether tests are necessary.

Opponents and supporters of the change both make arguments on behalf of diversity — a sensitive subject in the field of law, which is disproportionately white. The arguments echo other debates over standardized testing at all levels of higher education, a practice that some see as an equalizer and others see as a barrier. ...

Dropping the LSAT requirement was recommended almost a year ago by the association’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the national agency that accredits law schools. But the proposal was voted down earlier this month by the House of Delegates, the bar association’s policymaking arm.

On Friday, the 21-member council, most of whom have experience as law school administrators or professors, decided to move forward with the proposal despite the rejection by the House of Delegates, a much larger body of nearly 600 members. The House is expected vote on the matter again at a meeting in August.

After that second vote, the council would have the power to make the change with or without the delegates’ approval.

Dropping the LSAT requirement is not a new idea. The council put forth a similar resolution in 2018, but withdrew it after delegates expressed opposition. The council then devoted more study to the issue and, last year, solicited public letters; the responses were split fairly evenly for and against. ...

Proponents want to give law schools more flexibility in how they recruit and admit students, in the hope that doing so may make a dent in the profession’s relative lack of diversity. Research by Aaron N. Taylor, the executive director of the Center for Legal Education Excellence at AccessLex, a nonprofit organization, suggests that use of the LSAT in admissions is one of the reasons that Black aspiring lawyers are accepted to law schools at lower rates than their white counterparts. ...

Many opponents say they are open to change, but don’t want to rush. Without a standardized test, they say, law school student bodies could become even less diverse, because other criteria for deciding who to admit could turn out to be even more biased against applicants of color, as well as people from low-income families and first-generation college students.

Paulette Brown, a delegate and former member of the bar association’s council, who was also the first Black woman to serve as the association’s president, said she was undecided on the LSAT question until last week. At the Feb. 6 delegates’ meeting, she made a last-minute decision to speak against dropping the requirement. “Every time I hear the word ‘flexibility,’ the hair goes up on my neck,” Ms. Brown said to the delegates. “Because when you talk about flexibility, that means subjectivity. And when you introduce subjectivity into any process, it provides too much opportunity for mischief.” In other words, she said, unconscious bias could creep in. Like other opponents of the change, Ms. Brown argued that the association should wait and collect more data.

Danielle R. Holley, who is the dean of the law school at Howard University and sits on an advisory committee for the Law School Admissions Council, a nonprofit organization that earns revenue from administering the LSAT, said that the bar association could take an interim step — for example, by allowing for more exceptions to the LSAT requirement — and watch the results. ...

If the council’s proposal to drop the LSAT requirement is approved, law school applicants would probably not see any change until 2026, and even then, law schools could decide to continue to require the test.

ABA Journal, Legal Ed Will Resubmit Proposed Elimination of Admissions-Test Standard:

The council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar on Friday voted in favor of resubmitting to the House of Delegates a proposal to eliminate a requirement that accredited law schools use an admissions test like the LSAT or GRE. ... [T]he council voted in favor of resubmitting the proposed revisions to the House of Delegates for the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting in August., ABA Council Votes a Second Time to Allow Law Schools to Become Test-Optional:

Council Member Daniel Thies led the discussion during Friday’s meeting stating that while “we respect the HOD—they did an excellent job—our feeling there is more education to be done.” He also said that he didn’t believe the HOD raised any new points that the Council hadn’t already considered.

The Council had the option of amending the proposal, dropping it, delaying it or sending it back for the HOD to consider in August.

Reuters, ABA Will Try Yet Again to Eliminate LSAT Rule:

The proposal has divided the legal academy with no clear consensus this time around.

Opponents, including a group of 60 law school deans and the Law School Admission Council, which designs and administers the LSAT, warned that eliminating the test requirement would make admissions offices more dependent on subjective measures such as the prestige of an applicant’s college. That could disadvantage minority applicants, they say.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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