The American Bar Association decides to ditch law-school requirements for standardized tests

November 20, 2022 • 1:45 pm

Up until now, all accredited law schools in America required nearly every entering student to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which, according to Wikipedia, “is designed to assess reading comprehension as well as logical and verbal reasoning proficiency.” In some cases, however, a student can take the Graduate Record Examination General Test (GRE), which covers verbal reasoning, quantitative reason, and writing (an essay). A recent Princeton Review site says this:

The current admission standards for ABA-accredited law schools state that no more than 10% of an entering class may be admitted without LSAT scores , and those students must meet specific academic requirements, be undergraduates at same institution as the law school, and/or be pursuing a dual degree in another discipline. Law schools may apply for a variance from these standards by demonstrating that another test (in this case, the GRE) is a valid predictor of law students’ performance at that institution. The ABA, however, is currently considering changes to the LSAT score admission standard.

And yes, the ABA has changed these standards: they’ve eliminated them. Click on the screenshot below to read the Reuters article about the deep-sixing of all mandatorytests:

Here’s the whole article, with the motivation bolded by me:

The arm of the American Bar Association that accredits U.S. law schools on Friday voted to eliminate the longstanding requirement that schools use the Law School Admission Test or other standardized test when admitting students.

But under a last-minute revision, the rule change will not go into effect until the fall of 2025—giving law schools time to plan for new ways to admit students.

The ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar overwhelmingly voted to do away with its testing mandate after years of debate and over the objections of nearly 60 law school deans who warned such a move could harm the goal of diversifying the legal profession.

The organizations that design both the LSAT and the GRE also urged the council on Friday not to drop the rule, warning that it could lead to law schools admitting students who are unlikely to succeed despite incurring debt to attend.

Councilmember Daniel Thies noted that no other professional school accreditors require the use of admissions test and that has not led to a “race to the bottom” to bring in unqualified students. Existing limits on student attrition and a requirement that at least 75% of a school’s graduates pass the bar exam offer further guardrails, he said.

“The goal is to open up innovation—finding other ways that might complement the current admissions processes to move us ahead in legal education on diversity and a host of other considerations,” Thies said.

The ABA standards currently require law schools to use a “valid and reliable test” in admissions decisions. For years, the only standardized test that automatically met that criteria was the LSAT, though the ABA in November 2021 added the GRE as an acceptable alternative.

In other words, law schools are going to a mushier “holistic” standard of evaluation in an effort to increase diversity, which apparently was too low when the GRE or LSAT were required. So much for the claim that diversity and merit (at least as judged by exams) are are absolutely compatible. That is a fiction, but an ideologically comforting fiction.

Now it’s possible that law schools may still require either test for admission, but it’s no longer a mandatory requirement for a law school to be accredited.

I wonder what they’ll replace the tests with? Essays? Assessments of “personality”? Is there any downside to using other standards but keeping the standardized tests as well?

All over the country we see the elimination of standardized tests for admission to colleges, graduate schools, or professional schools. Since it’s the one measure on which everybody competes with everybody else on the same set of questions, I don’t think doing away with such metrics is a good things. Next test circling the drain: the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).