Monday, May 2, 2016
As reported by the National Law Journal, the Law School Admissions Council is contemplating expelling the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law from LSAC membership. This is in response to Arizona's decision to offer applicants the option of submitting a GRE score instead of an LSAT score. Apparently, there is a rule in the LSAC by-laws (of which I, and I assume almost all law school deans, have been ignorant) requiring “that substantially all of [member schools'] applicants for admission take the Law School Admission Test.”
This strikes me as a terrible rule. I urge LSAC to suspend enforcement of the rule and to immediately and promptly consider its repeal.
There are many problems with LSAC's threat against Arizona, but I will simply mention three:
- I am no antitrust expert, but this rule sure smells bad.
- Why has LSAC not previously enforced this rule against schools that obtained LSAT waivers from the ABA, or admitted students from their own institutions without LSAT scores under the now-defunct "10% Rule"?
- I cannot think of a rationalization for this rule that is in the interests of legal education and the law schools that make up the membership of LSAC.
Let me elaborate on that last point a bit. LSAC is not a for-profit entity with an inherent interest in preserving its market share. It exists to, and generally does, act in the public interest as it relates to legal education. The result of requiring members to use the LSAT exclusively would be to stifle needed innovation. Arizona, one of the innovative law schools in the country today, decided to allow applicants to use GRE scores after a careful, thoughtful process. Although some commentators think it has to do with gaming US News (there might be a short-lived advantage to Arizona here, but not a great one), their purpose is to make applying to law school easier, cheaper and more readily available to a diverse group of prospective students. They commissioned a study, which apparently has demonstrated the GRE's validity as a predictor of law school success. By what reasoning (other than LSAC seeking a monopoly-like position), should this experiment be punished?
The ABA is alone among US accrediting bodies in requiring any kind of standardized test for admissions. What if the ABA reverses this policy? Would LSAC attempt to expel any school that went test-optional? Law schools are LSAC, and we should not allow this to happen.
At the same time, the ABA should probably repeal the rules requiring the use of an admissions test. The ABA is properly moving towards more of a focus on outcomes. Schools should be assessed based on the learning of their students, and their success on the bar examination and in gaining meaningful employment. Whether and how to use an admissions test should be up to the schools (just as it is for all medical, business, engineering, architecture, etc., schools). We should be concerned with schools taking advantage of applicants who have little chance of success. But this is better dealt with through outcomes standards with real teeth, combined with rigorous disclosure rules.