TUCSON, Ariz. — The requirement that American Bar Association-approved law schools require applicants to submit a standardized law school admissions test as part of their application could soon become optional.
An April 13 meeting of the Standards Review Committee of the Council of the American Bar Association's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar advanced a proposal to eliminate the requirement that law schools mandate applicants to submit a standardized admission test score as part of their application.
The discussion of the current ABA requirement that law school applications include a "valid and reliable test" has been growing. For more than a half-century, the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, has been the exclusive test used by schools.
In February 2016, the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law was the first school to announce it would accept the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, for incoming law students. The decision was based on a study that demonstrated that, for students in Arizona Law's JD program, performance on the GRE is a valid and reliable predictor of their first-term law school grades.
Following the UA's lead, more than one dozen other law schools, including those at Harvard and Northwestern, have announced they would accept the GRE for law school applicants.
"I am pleased that the Standards Review Committee has acted in favor of innovation in legal education," said Marc Miller, dean of the UA's James E. Rogers College of Law. "This recommendation recognizes that a one-size-fits-all admissions approach prevents law schools from opening their doors to the widest pool of students capable of success in law school and on the bar. By focusing more on the quality and outcomes of legal education instead of mandating the use of specific measures of potential that are incomplete at best, law schools will be in line with other professional schools and can better serve students and the profession by admitting and educating capable candidates with broad backgrounds and qualifications."
As proposed by the draft circulated by the council for comment, Standard 503, which requires a test, would be eliminated altogether and Standard 501 would be strengthened. Standard 501 states that a school must "maintain sound admission policies and practices consistent with the Standards, its mission and the objectives of its program of legal education."
According to an ABA news release, Barry Currier, ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education, and others at the meeting agreed that it was likely that law schools would continue to require an admissions test score from applicants, even if the formal requirement that they do so was removed. Removing the requirement, proponents of the change argue, will open opportunities for law schools to innovate with respect to putting together an entering class that serves well the program and missions of schools.
The matter now goes to the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which meets May 11 in Washington, D.C. If the council approves the changes for Standards 501 and 503 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, the earliest they could go before the ABA House of Delegates for its concurrence would be August.
Under the procedures of the council, the ABA House of Delegates can concur with the recommendation or return it with or without recommendation. The council can then send it back to the house again for concurrence. The final decision for this and any standard, however, rests with the council.
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