Two top law schools will no longer require their applicants to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).
Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and Georgetown Law Center announced Aug. 7 they will accept the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) as an LSAT substitute for students applying for admission in 2018.
Daniel Rodriguez, dean at Northwestern Law, told Bloomberg BNA that a chief driver for his school’s decision was an attempt to attract a more diverse group of applicants, particularly those who may have passed on law school in past years to pursue graduate studies in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Georgetown Law Dean of Admissions Andrew Cornblatt said his school hopes the substitution will widen and deepen the school’s applicant pool with students earning undergraduate degrees in STEM, public health, foreign languages, and other fields. The change will not mean it will be easier to get into Georgetown, Cornblatt said.
“Far from it. We are making it more accessible with the same standards we had before,” he said.
Accepting the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT will likely be welcomed by large law firms looking for law-school graduates with new types of skills, they said.
Law firms today are looking for students “who are more risk taking, who are more future oriented, more entrepreneurial,” Rodriguez said. "[T]he schools that have more than their share of students like that will be very appealing to more visionary BigLaw law firms that well understand the dynamic changes in the marketplace,” he said.
“Do I think there may be some older partners within BigLaw who will have questions about this? Probably. But I think there are more people there who will understand that what we’re trying to do is to broaden the admissions process” without reducing the traditional rigor of Georgetown’s application process, Cornblatt told Bloomberg BNA.
Georgetown Law: Application Leader
Georgetown received about 8,900 applications in 2017, the most of any law school in the nation, so accepting the GRE in lieu of the LSAT is not some gimmick to attract applications, Cornblatt said. But he and Rodriguez both noted a recent dip in admissions nationwide.
Since a 30-year peak that occurred during 2009-10, the number of LSAT tests administered to prospective law-school students has dropped 36 percent, according to Law School Admissions Council data.
Indeed, many law schools “are facing either a decline in admissions standards—the LSAT and the undergraduate [grade point average]—or a decline in the size of their classes, or in some cases a combination of both,” Rodriguez said. The nation’s top law schools haven’t been “entirely spared from that decline,” he said.
The American Bar Association’s Council on Legal Education in March approved for notice and comment a revision of its Standard 503. The proposal would still require law-school applicants to take a test, but it would allow law schools to use a test determined by the council to be a “valid and reliable " measure in assessing the applicant’s capability of successfully completing the school’s curriculum.
Currently, any law school wanting to use a test other than the LSAT needs to receive council approval. Any change in ABA policy would need to be vetted by various ABA groups and could not be approved until 2018.
In February 2016, the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law became the first law school to accept the GRE as well as the LSAT to admit students. Harvard Law School launched a pilot project in March 2017 allowing applicants to submit the GRE.
In a July 10 comment letter to the ABA on the association’s possible change, Harvard Law School Dean John Manning said his school adopted the change in an attempt to eliminate barriers to admission as it searches for the most talented candidates.
Rigorous empirical research concluded the GRE was “at least as good a predictor of first-year grades for HLS student as was the LSAT,” Manning wrote, a conclusion both Georgetown and Northwestern reached.