The ABA Legal Ed Council is proposing to make law school admissions tests optional | Tech US News


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The ABA Legal Ed Council is proposing to make law school admissions tests optional

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The ABA Section’s Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has proposed making standardized admissions tests optional at accredited law schools.

On Friday, a majority of the council voted to change the testing mandate, Standard 503, at its hybrid meeting in Atlanta.

The standard requires law schools to use a “valid and reliable” test to evaluate applicants. Historically, this test was the Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT. At Friday’s meeting, the board also voted to amend Standard 501 to include an annual review of admissions policies and practices.

The proposal is expected to go before the ABA House of Delegates at its semiannual meeting in New Orleans in February 2023. The proposal was amended Friday to state that the changes would not be implemented until the fall of 2025, if passed.

The effort to change Standard 503 comes after the council said in November 2021 that ABA-accredited law schools can also use the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, when considering applicants. The revised standard could eliminate the testing requirement that has been a cornerstone of law school admissions for more than 50 years.

Plans to change the standard proved divisive. In May, the council decided to allow public comment on the proposed changes for 90 days. Those in favor of relaxing Standard 503 said it would open law school doors to more underrepresented students and improve diversity in the legal profession.

From 2017 to 2018, the average LSAT score for whites was 11.5 points higher than the average score for blacks, according to the Law School Admissions Council, which administers the LSAT. The 2022 council report also suggested disparities between white test takers and Native Americans, Hispanics and other minorities.

“I believe that by eliminating the standardized test requirement, the legal field could perhaps become more diverse and inclusive,” wrote Jameelah Kates, an African-American woman who was among many who wrote in support of relaxing the standard.

But those who opposed the changes argued that the LSAT is still the best way to determine an aspiring lawyer’s readiness to meet the demands of law school and provides additional protection from the heavy debt burden that comes with attending.

In September, 60 law school deans defended the standard. They argued that relaxation would not necessarily level the playing field for underrepresented students. In their letter, the deans feared that the changes would be “premature and could have effects contrary to those desired”.

“Specifically, we fear that the unintended consequence of removing Standard 503’s requirement that JD candidates pass a valid and reliable entrance exam will reduce the diversity of incoming law school classes by increasing reliance on grade point average and other potentially more biased criteria ,” the letter states.

The effort to relax the 503 standard is not without precedent. A similar plan was introduced in 2018 to get rid of law school entrance exam requirements, but was withdrawn shortly before the House of Representatives had a chance to vote on it.


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