The GRE, the LSAT, and the Future of Law School Admissions

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The LSAT may be losing its primacy in law school admissions. Harvard, Georgetown, and Northwestern, each among the famed Top-14 law schools, have all announced that they would be accepting GRE scores as well as LSAT scores. What does this mean going forward?

1. The ABA might put up some more hurdles in the way of using other tests

Currently, the ABA doesn’t require law schools to use the LSAT only. If a school runs a study and determines that another test reliably predicts student performance, then the school may use that test. But, now that law schools have started taking advantage of this rule, the ABA is going to take a second look, and may even change the rule to require pre-approval from the ABA.

2. We might get a math section on the LSAT

The LSAT already has a math section–the Logic Games section! But apparently that may not be good enough. The GRE is being touted over the LSAT, in part, because the GRE tests math and everyone needs to know a bit of math. So, Kellye Y. Testy, CEO of LSAC, has suggested that if math is what the law schools want, the LSAC might look into testing that too!

That’s hilarious, but I doubt that LSAC will go this route. Adding math would make it even harder to prep for the LSAT, which would make it an even less desirable alternative to GRE.

3. Law school admissions may get tougher

The supposed virtues of testing math aside, the real reason law schools are interested in the GRE is to expand their applicant pools. Fewer and fewer people are applying to law school, because legal employment ain’t what it used to be. Big law associates just got their first raise in 6 years, while tuition never stopped ballooning. So now law schools want to see if they can entice some more people to apply by accepting GRE scores.

It will be interesting to see whether it’ll be easier to get in with a relatively low GRE score, because GRE scores probably won’t factor into the US News Rankings (at least not immediately), and therefore law schools won’t have the incentive to be as picky. I firmly believe that anyone with a 160+ LSAT score can succeed at any law school in the country, so you could do just fine at law school with a relatively low GRE score.

Either way, expect admissions to get a bit tougher. How tough? I’m guessing not by a whole lot. The people who have or will only take the GRE are those who aren’t all that committed to going to law school, or who think law school and, say, a masters in classics are about equivalent. This should be a small number of people. But I don’t really know.

4. Is it a good idea to accept GRE scores?

It’s interesting to note that both Georgetown and Harvard have huge class sizes–576 and 562, respectively–so it makes sense that they’d need to boost their applicant pool. In fact, they’re the top two law schools by class size. So it’s a good idea for mega law schools like Georgetown and Harvard to accept GRE scores. Northwestern has a much smaller class size, but the same rationale probably holds there too.

But is accepting the GRE good for law school applicants? I think so. Standardized tests are a necessary evil. It takes a lot of time and effort to prep for them. But there’s nothing magical about the LSAT or GRE–they’re just supposed to signal an applicant’s aptitude. So, if it turns out that one test is just as predictive of law school success as another, there really is no reason to limit law schools to just using the LSAT.

Now some might say that admitting people who aren’t really committed to being lawyers or attending law school is a bad thing, but we already do a ton of that. Yale, one of the best law schools in the country, sends more than 20% of its graduates to non-legal fields. And, I’ve yet to meet anyone who has a very compelling reason for being at law school.

Law school isn’t special, and so maybe it should get to have it’s own special test.

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