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The LSAT as a Law School Requirement: In For the Long Haul

Earlier this month, Rutgers Law made headlines after being fined $25k for waiving the LSAT requirement for some students. Since 2006, the school allowed up to 10 percent of each admitted class to skip the LSAT. Before you get too jealous, the students who didn’t have to take the LSAT were admitted based on their scores on a different graduate school admissions test (the GRE, GMAT or MCAT), so they still got their fill of standardized testing.

The ABA actually does allow law schools to use tests other than the LSAT, but the schools have to seek permission from the ABA and establish that whatever test they’re using is a “valid substitute” for the LSAT. Rutgers Law was apparently following the maxim that “it’s easier to seek forgiveness than to ask for permission,” so when they applied for permission in 2012 — six years after beginning their policy — the ABA stuck them with the fine.

While Rutgers messed up on the execution of their plan, the ABA’s policy makes it clear that it actually is possible for a school to pass on the LSAT and still retain its accreditation. (There are also unaccredited law schools that do not require the LSAT, but in most states, you can’t take the bar exam if you haven’t attended an accredited law school.) The very thought of applying to law school without having to take the LSAT might make you jump for joy — but should it?

First of all, don’t expect to get out of the LSAT any time soon. Dropping the LSAT as a requirement for accreditation has been a topic of conversation for years, but the pace of change within the legal world is absolutely glacial, so I wouldn’t expect to see any big changes soon.

Secondly, there is the question of whether not requiring the LSAT would be a good thing. There’s no doubt that the LSAT is a beast, and the process of studying for it is long, laborious and frequently stressful. There’s also no doubt that there are plenty of people who didn’t receive the highest LSAT scores and were still very successful in law school and beyond.

That said, the reason the LSAT exists is because it — along with your undergraduate GPA — is one of the strongest predictors of law school performance. No one would say that there are too few lawyers in the US right now, and since law school application numbers are down, at least some law schools would likely jump at the chance to admit candidates who haven’t taken the LSAT — if for no other reason than to take their tuition money. So while I feel for my students as I listen to them gripe about the LSAT, it’s hard for me to see dropping the LSAT as beneficial for anyone other than law schools.

Of course, since I get paid for teaching the LSAT, one could say that I have a vested interest in keeping it as a law school requirement. Think I’m dead wrong? Tell me why in the comments.