The Revenge of LSAC

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We told you a few months ago about the beginning of what is now a law school admissions trend (if two counts as a trend, that is): law schools accepting the GRE in lieu of the LSAT. If you’re reading this blog, you likely know that the GRE is the standardized test those going on to graduate school — rather than a professional school, like like law school — take. It tests math and verbal skills, whereas the LSAT tests logic and argumentation.

Well, it looks like Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which creates and administers the LSAT, is hitting back. Hard. LSAC is considering rescinding the University of Arizona’s membership in the organization.

Why does this matter? In addition to creating and administering the LSAT, LSAC runs the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). CAS is the main clearinghouse for law school applications. Aspiring law students send in the relevant application materials like transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statement, etc., and sends it on to the schools to which the applicant wishes to apply. Since this is the exclusive method of application used by most applicants, University of Arizona is sure to see a swift and massive drop in applications as a result.

It’s no secret that many law schools, especially the lower ranked ones, are in financial trouble for lack of enrollments. It’s ironic for U of A then that a gambit meant to bring in more applicants may, in the long run, do such damage to their applicant pool.

“We anticipated that [LSAC] wouldn’t welcome this with open arms, but we didn’t predict this particular action,” said Marc Miller, the dean of U of A’s law school. “This seems like a pretty bald way to punish us for innovating.”

LSAC is relying on a provision in the bylaws that requires “substantially all of its applicants for admission take the Law School Admission Test.” University of Arizona claims to have met that standard. They’re relying on a related precedent set at many schools: so-called “pipeline programs” where students who attend the undergraduate program of the school can matriculate into the law school without taking the LSAT. University of Arizona argues that the fact that 35 applicants out of a pool of 1,300 is in line with numbers of non-LSAT takers that have applied in pipeline schools. If 35 non-LSAT takers counts as substantially all in that case, why wouldn’t it in this instance. The obvious answer is that the GRE is a competitor to the LSAT whereas pipeline programs are small exceptions to it.

It will be interesting to see who blinks first.

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