The Legal Beat
Harvard Law School Will Cast A Wider Net This Fall; Which T14 Law Schools Will Follow?
Posted on Friday March 17, 2017
“I mean damn, did you even see the test?” — Kanye
Last week, Harvard Law School announced that it will begin to accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT starting this fall, as part of a pilot program and strategy to expand legal education. According to HLS:
The change is supported by an HLS study, designed in 2016 and completed earlier this year, examining, on an anonymized basis, the GRE scores of current and former HLS students who took both the GRE and the LSAT.
In accordance with American Bar Association (ABA) Standards for Legal Education, the aim of the study was to determine whether the GRE is a valid predictor of first-year academic performance in law school. The statistical study showed that the GRE is an equally valid predictor of first-year grades.
Given that the GRE is an equally valid predictor of first-year law grades, what T14 law schools will follow suit? Our own Elie Mystal has an entertaining answer to this question.
Earlier this year, the Equality of Opportunity Project published a report revealing that Ivy League schools do very little for economic mobility in our country. According to the report, more Ivy League students come from families in the top 1% of the income distribution than the bottom half of the income distribution.
University of Michigan was ranked last in economic mobility and diversity among elite public colleges. Princeton ranked last in overall mobility amongst the Ivy League and selected elite colleges. You can view your school’s economic mobility report card on The Upshot at the New York Times.
So our nation’s top universities have done very little for economic mobility in our country. Maybe it is because these schools rely so heavily, and haphazardly, on the SAT for admittance. As Harvard professor Lani Guinier notes, “The score on your SATs or other exams is a better predictor of your parents’ income and the car they drive than of your performance in college.” National College Access Network’s Executive Director Kim Cook states, “Your ZIP code can really determine what your future will look like.”
Who can claim our country’s top law schools have done any better than our nation’s top universities when it comes to promoting economic mobility and diversity? Like one’s score on the SATs, I fear one’s score on the LSATs (or GREs for that matter) is also a better indicator of income than of performance.
A regular applicant to Harvard has an 11% chance of being accepted, but a legacy has a 40% acceptance rate.
At the University of Virginia, 91% of legacy applicants accepted on an early-decision basis for next fall are white; 1.6% are black, 0.5% are Hispanic, and 1.6% are Asian. Among applicants with no alumni parents, the pool of those accepted is more diverse: 73% white, 5.6% black, 9.3% Asian and 3.5% Hispanic.’ Not everyone is privileged, but at UVA, 91 percent of legacies sure have it good….
Dean Kevin R. Johnson asks, ‘In these times, can a truly excellent law school have a homogeneous student body and faculty? Can we truly—and do we want to—imagine a top-twenty-five law school comprised of predominantly white men?’
Black enrollment is 6.9 percent at Yale, 5.5 percent at University of Chicago, and 3.6 percent at University of Michigan.
At none of the nation’s 15 highest-ranked law schools do black enrollments reach 9 percent.
As I have previously mentioned, diversity has improved in legal education. Unfortunately, it has been almost exclusively at less prestigious law schools. The fact is our top law schools do have a homogeneous student body and faculty. With that being said, are these schools truly excellent?
The majority of U.S. public school students are now in poverty. Unless consciously addressed, the same restrictive structures, policies, and biases that have led to our current system will only be magnified in the coming years.
Meanwhile, Americans rank law firms dead last in commitment to diversity. What U.S.-based Am Law 100 firms will follow their European counterparts and adopt a “CV blind” policy — where those conducting final interviews are no longer given any information about which university candidates attended?
One thing is clear — if law schools and law firms keep doing the same thing, then the legal profession will keep getting the same results.
I, for one, welcome Harvard Law School’s acceptance of the GRE. But the real question is — how will the acceptance of the GRE improve economic mobility and diversity in our nation’s top law schools?
Instead of just following a school’s pilot program to expand legal education, what other top law schools are ready to lead the charge for improving economic mobility and diversity in the legal profession?