Legal Education

Law school leaders make diversity argument in support of admissions tests

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A proposal to cut an accreditation standard requiring law school admissions tests was criticized by 60 deans in a Sept. 1 letter sent to the council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

The matter involves Standard 503 and Standard 501, which address admissions. In May, the council sent out for notice and comment a proposed revision to cut most of the language in Standard 503 and add a sentence that schools “may use” admissions tests. It also suggests that law schools identify in admissions policies any entrance exam accepted. Regarding Standard 501, the proposal suggests adding language that schools annually assess admissions policies.

The deans’ Sept. 1 letter argues that cutting entrance exams shown to be valid and reliable could hurt diversity among law students because schools would rely more on grade-point averages for admissions decisions. Other criteria has the potential to be more bias, according to the letter.

“For if law schools abandon the LSAT (or some other validated test) in their admissions processes, something else will take its place. We do not know what those things will be, but it is quite possible—we think probable—that greater emphasis will be put on GPA, written or verbal recommendations, the reputation of undergraduate institutions, admissions officers’ familiarity with those institutions, or other subjective factors,” according to the letter.

Deans who signed the letter include Jens David Ohlin of Cornell Law School, Paul L. Caron of the Pepperdine University Rick J. Caruso School of Law and Danielle R. Holley of the Howard University School of Law.

The deadline for notice and comment was Sept. 1. Other comments can be viewed here.

Support for the proposal includes writings from Christopher P. Chapman, president and CEO at the AccessLex Institute, the Clinical Legal Education Association and Barry Currier, the ABA’s former managing director of accreditation and legal education for the section.

The TaxProf Blog also has coverage.

See also: “As some jurisdictions consider bar exam alternatives, ABA Legal Ed section again looks at bar pass standard”

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