Remember the LSAT? To some attorneys, the Law School Admissions Test may be a faint memory; nothing more than their first step toward a legal career. For future attorneys, however, studying for months on end and cramming practice logic games in preparation for the LSAT may become nonexistent.
Last year, our alma mater became the first law school in the country to accept an applicant's GRE (graduate record examination) score in lieu of a traditional LSAT score. Earlier this month, Harvard Law School followed suit. HLS' prominence will likely create a ripple effect throughout the law school community and it is possible other deans will also accept a more broad admission process. The thought: If I can get into Harvard with a GRE score, I can get into anywhere, right?
Though practicing attorneys are far beyond the stresses of applying to law school, this change in the admission process could have a potential effect on the future composition of the legal industry. In 5 to 10 years, freshly minted lawyers you could be working with, or against, may have had a non-traditional entry to law school. But does this entail any positive or negative consequences if the GRE-taker and LSAT-taker complete the same legal education?
Proponents of this change assert that GRE test results are a “valid and reliable predictor of students' first-term law school grades”. GRE applicants may be as equal as or better qualified to succeed in law school than LSAT applicants. Simply put, widening the entry gate to law school is an attempt to “diversify the paths to legal education” and tap a potential pool of applicants from a greater degree of disciplines. The GRE is also more accessible to students as it is offered frequently throughout the year compared to the LSAT, which is offered only four times in a year. If GRE applicants are as equally qualified, a greater diversity of students may enrich the law school experience and ultimately affect the composition of the legal industry.
Opponents point out that the study which determined GRE test results as a “valid and reliable” was conducted by the Educational Testing Service. The study's results may be potentially biased as the ETS is the same group that administers the test. Other opponents will claim that the GRE is the easier test of the two (though it demands a wider base of knowledge, including math proficiency). Moreover, opponents assert that while the LSAT is specifically designed to test an applicant's skills relevant to those needed in law school, the GRE does not. Regardless of whether you believe that the LSAT or GRE is an accurate predictor of success in law school, taking the LSAT does indicate the specific intent to gain a legal education. Some worry that GRE-takers will apply to law school as a second thought, rather than fully thinking through the implications of entering law.
Arguments for and against preserving the traditional admissions process will remain. However a noticeable impact on the composition of the legal industry may only be felt if more schools follow in Arizona and Harvard's footsteps.