Two law schools drop LSAT requirement

New rules are an opportunity for alternative tests

As law schools nationwide struggle to meet enrollment goals, two law schools announced last month that they will no longer require LSAT scores from certain applicants, reports Natalie Kitroeff for Bloomberg Business.

The State University of New York Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) Law School and the University of Iowa (UI) College of Law both announced in February that applicants from their respective undergraduate institutions would no longer need to submit LSAT scores as part of their applications.

The announcement comes as law schools nationwide face record-low enrollments.

According to Bloomberg, about 38,000 students enrolled in their first year of law school in 2014—down 28% since 2010, and at the lowest point in 40 years. SUNY Buffalo and UI have both seen overall enrollment decline by about 20% since 2011.

Luring more applicants

James Gardner, dean of SUNY Buffalo's law school, says he hopes removing the LSAT requirement for some students will encourage more to apply. "It does address that problem to the extent that they remove what is, for some students, an obstacle for applying to law school," he says, pointing out that "taking the LSAT is a pain, and it is expensive." 

Admitting students without LSAT scores has only been possible since last August, when the American Bar Association (ABA) passed new admissions rules.

The ABA now allows as much as 10% of a law school's incoming class to be made up of individuals who did not submit LSAT scores, as long as they had strong academic records and scored well on other standardized tests, such as the GRE or GMAT.

A challenge to the LSAT

Barry Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education at the ABA, says he expects more schools to begin experimenting with non-traditional admissions criteria. Prior to the official rule change, Currier says 15 schools had already applied for special permission to admit students without LSAT scores. "We are really at the front end here of what this might mean," he says.

Creating innovative graduate law degree programs

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which administers the LSAT, is not yet concerned about the future of the test. "We don't see a huge impact from this," says Wendy Margolis, an LSAC spokesperson.

However, Currier points out that "if the ACT, SAT, and GRE decide to do the work to compete for the business that LSAT does," then more schools might turn to LSAT alternatives. 

According to Bloomberg, changes to testing criteria could mean changes to the typical composition of incoming law school classes. But Gardner focused on individual students. "This is just a way to identify strong-performing students based on perfectly rational criteria that don't involve the LSAT," he says (Kitroeff, Bloomberg Business, 2/24).

The takeaway: Two law schools announced in February that they will no longer require the LSAT from certain applicants, which observers say could both bolster declining enrollments and challenge the LSAT's role in law school admissions.

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