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Have you heard? You don't have to take the LSAT to get into law school anymore! Cue the articles about how "some schools" -- two -- are eliminating the requirement and how pretty soon no one will have to take the LSAT.
Sort of. As Bloomberg Business reported Tuesday, the ABA did change its rules in August to allow schools to admit up to 10 percent of students in an entering class without taking the LSAT. There's a bunch of caveats, though.
Lots of Requirements, but Then It's Easy!
First, a prospective non-LSAT-taker could only take advantage of this new rule if (1) he or she is attending law school at the same institution where he or she got an undergraduate degree; or, (2) he or she is entering a JD degree program in combination with another degree program (MBAs are popular).
Second, our LSAT-thrower-by-the-waysider would have to graduate in the top 10 percent of his or her undergraduate class (or achieve a GPA of at least 3.5), and would have to score in at least the 85th percentile nationally on the ACT, SAT, GRE, or GMAT.
But once you satisfy all those requirements, it's so easy to go to law school!
Spoiler Alert: They Want Cash
SUNY-Buffalo Law School and University of Iowa College of Law are the first two schools to implement this wacky procedure. Why are they doing it? If you guessed "law school attendance is declining precipitously," then you've won a new car! The dean of SUNY Buffalo law school "acknowledges, however, that the change might be a lifeline to law schools, which have lately been suffering from a persistent lack of bodies," Bloomberg Business reports. "It does address that problem to the extent that they remove what is, for some students, an obstacle for applying to law school," the dean is quoted as saying.
Which is precisely the point, isn't it? The purpose of standardized tests is to function as a gate-keeping mechanism. We do want obstacles because we don't want just anyone to be able to go to law school. The ABA's new plan is great for law schools in the short term (because it gets those Benjamins into law school pockets), but it might not be such a great idea over the long term. If you read our blog post yesterday on the ABA's Section 509 disclosures, then you'll recall that there's some correlation between LSAT scores and bar passage rates. Even if that's nothing more than a measure of a person's ability to take tests, and granted state bar exams have nothing to do with the actual practice of law, you've still gotta pass the test. No test, no license. No license, then what did you go to law school for? A "versatile degree"?
In all fairness, the ABA tracked 15 institutions that applied for special dispensation -- essentially implementing this procedure already -- and found that students admitted that way didn't have significantly worse academic outcomes than students who took the LSAT.
Just what we need: More lawyers.
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