If you’re dialed into the legal world, you may have heard some uproar last fall about law school admissions requirements. The ABA voted to get rid of the LSAT requirement for law school admissions. But what does this decision mean, and is the LSAT going away for good?
The ABA decision doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of the LSAT. Read on to learn more about this decision and how it will impact the future of legal education.
About the Vote
On November 18, 2022, the American Bar Association voted to get rid of the regulation requiring law schools to use the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) when admitting students.
For years, the professional organization has required law schools to use a “valid and reliable test” to evaluate applicants. The LSAT was the only test to meet those requirements, although the ABA did vote last year to include the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as an acceptable test.
This vote comes after years of debate about whether standardized tests should be a part of law school admissions. And as we’ll discuss more later, just because the ABA has declared the tests to be optional does not mean that universities will do away with them altogether.
Why Drop the LSAT?
You might be wondering why the ABA would drop something as seemingly central to law school admissions as the LSAT is. The goal is to promote more diversity and inclusivity within the legal profession.
Currently, it costs $215 to register for the LSAT, a barrier that has kept many lower-income students out of law schools. Some students with learning disabilities and mental disorders like ADHD may also struggle to keep up with their peers in standardized test performance.
The ABA wants to remove those barriers to entry and allow any student who could become a good lawyer to pursue that career path.
The Controversy Surrounding the Decision
Of course, a vote like this isn’t without some controversy. The organizations that administer both the LSAT and the GRE released statements prior to the vote encouraging the ABA to keep the testing requirement in place. Almost sixty law school deans also publicly opposed the measure.
Opponents of this action claim that dropping the LSAT requirement could lead to lower-level students being admitted to schools they aren’t prepared to succeed in. They could accrue thousands of dollars in student loans only to flunk out before they get their degree.
The ABA countered these claims by pointing out that no other professional school accreditation organization requires schools to use a test score when considering applications.
When the Change Will Happen
Although the vote took place last November, this change will not go into effect immediately.
The LSAT requirement will officially be removed in 2025, giving law schools time to decide how they want to conduct their admissions going forward. Schools will still be allowed to use the LSAT as a criterion if they wish, but it will no longer be mandatory.
Schools that decide to move away from the LSAT will have two years to figure out what admissions requirements they want to use instead. Many programs may look instead at GPA, admissions essays, and other metrics when considering applications.
Will Law Schools Follow Suit?
With the LSAT requirement officially on the way out, the question of the hour becomes if law schools will follow the ABA’s lead.
A survey conducted last year estimated that fewer than 10 percent of law schools planned to drop the LSAT requirement for their program. Almost half of respondents said they didn’t know how their school would respond to the ruling. But the remainder said their law school would likely continue requiring LSAT scores for admission, even without the ABA mandate.
While this divide may seem negative on the face, it can actually provide some valuable feedback on the success of this initiative. If a law school finds that it is able to curate a more diverse student population without compromising graduation rates or bar exam pass rates, other schools may follow suit.
The Future of Law Education
The process of becoming a lawyer is grueling, and the LSAT has been one of the first hurdles prospective law students have to overcome. This new ruling opens the door to more innovative admissions processes and may help to diversify the legal profession. And while it’s not a widely popular decision, the coming years will tell whether this change has the impact the ABA hopes it will.