The Legal Beat
In The LSAT v. GRE Battle, Should The ABA Get Involved?
Posted on Thursday July 13, 2017
There’s a battle brewing between the LSAT and the GRE. After years of being the only game in town, the LSAT is now feeling pressure as some law schools have made a move to accept the GRE in lieu of the law school standard. The trend started with Arizona Law, citing decreased barriers to entry, which coincidentally coincides with a decrease in applications, particularly for lower-tier law schools (and some argue that lower barriers aren’t necessarily a good thing). Then Harvard Law shook up the game by deciding to accept the GRE, and all of a sudden, the GRE for law students became mainstream.
This week, the ABA will hold a hearing on a proposed rule change to Standard 503, which currently allows law schools to accept alternatives to the LSAT (read: the GRE) if they can prove another test is valid and reliable. If the rule change passes, schools will no longer be able to decide an alternate test is valid and reliable, that determination would be the sole province of the ABA. That’s a… major change, as Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs at Kaplan Test Prep, notes:
The American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is set to debate one of the most controversial amendments to its Standards in years. If the ABA adopts its proposed amendments to Standard 503, it will immediately stifle law school attempts to circumnavigate the current LSAT requirement and at least temporarily halt schools’ desire to use the GRE for admissions purposes. However, incorporated into the proposed changes is a call for a process for the ABA to vet admissions exams other than the LSAT, which may set the stage for a sweeping ruling allowing law schools to accept the GRE in the future. Rejecting the proposed amendments will likely result in trickling adoption of the GRE. At Kaplan, we’ll be tracking the issue closely to ensure that students have the most accurate and up-to-date information possible to make informed decisions.
Given this looming change that would radically alter the current trend of legal education, what do law schools think about it? According to a Kaplan survey of 119 law schools, including 18 of the top 30 as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, the opinions are split:
Of the nearly 120 law schools polled, 61 percent say the ABA should make a statement saying that law schools are either permitted or not permitted to allow applicants to submit GRE scores as an alternative to scores from the LSAT, long the only sanctioned law school admissions exam. Twenty-seven percent say it should not; and 13 percent are unsure.
And the comments the survey collected, from both sides of the issue, are revealing:
“They need to pick a side…I feel the process should be fairly unified. I want the ABA to be more definitive so we are playing from the same book.”
“They are notorious for making decisions in a vacuum without getting input from law schools. They don’t have a good understanding of what they are regulating. Most don’t have experience in higher education or law school administration.”
“It would make it easier for all of us to have a concrete statement.”
“I don’t think blanket statements are a good idea. I think the ABA is right to come up with a process. There needs to be a rigorous validation process in place.”
There are no easy answers to this complex question, but whatever the ABA decides this week, it will shape the course of legal education.
Kathryn Rubino is an editor at Above the Law. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).