American Bar Association May Eliminate Standardized Tests for Admissions

A committee within the A.B.A. has recommended that law schools stop requiring standardized tests like the LSAT as part of their admissions process.

No more LSATs?

A committee within the American Bar Association recommended late last month that law schools eliminate the requirement of “a valid and reliable admission test” as part of their admission process.

Its memo added, however, “Law schools of course remain free to require a test if they wish.”

The recommendation was made on April 25 by the Strategic Review Committee, four years after another group, the A.B.A.’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, approved similar changes to its standards for rules and admissions. The council is made up of 21 people, including lawyers, professors, administrators and others.

“Issues concerning admission policies have been of concern to the council for several years,” Bill Adams, the managing director of accreditation and legal education for the A.B.A., said in a statement.

Leaders in the bar association have said that they are less concerned about student performance on an entrance exam than how students do in law school — whether they remain enrolled and how soon they pass the bar exam after graduation.

But the decision to adopt the standard is not final.

The committee’s recommendation will be discussed at a council meeting later this month, Mr. Adams said. If approved, the council would also decide whether to send the proposal out for public comment.

The House of Delegates, which sets policy for the association, will have an opportunity to review the recommendation, Mr. Adams said.

“Any final decision rests with the council,” he said. If the council ultimately approves the recommendation, the earliest the changes could affect students would be for those enrolling in the fall of 2023.

The committee recommended that the language of the admissions standards be changed to say that law schools “may” consider admission test scores. Law schools could also consider “undergraduate course of study and grade point average, extracurricular activities, work experience, performance in other graduate or professional programs, relevant demonstrated skills, and obstacles overcome.”

The committee’s recommendation follows a trend at some elite colleges and universities, which have waived standardized testing requirements amid criticism that wealthier students have advantages such as the ability to afford prep coaching. Last May, leaders of the University of California system voted to eliminate test score requirements permanently, and Harvard will remain test-optional at least through fall 2026, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

The traditional Law School Admission Test is administered by the Law School Admission Council, a nonprofit entity that partially oversees the law school application process. The organization said in a statement on Friday that it hoped “the A.B.A. will consider these issues very carefully.”

It added, “We believe the LSAT will continue to be a vital tool for schools and applicants for years to come.”

The council called the test “the most accurate predictor of law school success and a powerful tool for diversity when used properly as one factor in a holistic admission process.”

Some law school deans have, in recent years, questioned the use of the traditional Law School Admission Test, viewing the standardized exam as an impediment to reaching new groups of potential applicants who could become law students. In 2016, the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law began accepting applicants who had taken only the more general GRE graduate admissions exam instead of the LSAT.

The Law School Admission Council warned the university that it might expel Arizona’s school from its network. But other law school deans defended the university’s decision.

Two years later, the council of the A.B.A. proposed changing the standards to make test scores an optional part of the admissions process.

There was “considerable and organized opposition to the amendments” at a meeting of the House of Delegates, the April memo said, and the proposed changes to the standards were withdrawn.

Afterward, the council solicited feedback “from interested parties related to the requirement of an admission test in the standards,” and held a roundtable event to discuss the standards, according to the memo.

The Strategic Review Committee then reviewed the standards, the memo said.

The proposed changes will be discussed on May 20 at the council’s public meeting in Chicago.

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