Recently, a group of officials made an unexpected, pivotal, late-in-the-game call that undoubtedly pleased some while drawing the ire of many.
Quick recap: about four months ago, the division of the American Bar Association (ABA) responsible for overseeing legal education and law school admissions voted to remove Standard 503. This rule makes law schools use a “valid and reliable admissions test” in their admissions process. The removal of this rule would make law school admissions “test-optional” — so people could apply to law school without taking the LSAT or any other standardized test.
That division of the ABA isn’t the only faction that gets to chime in, though. The ABA’s House of Delegates also gets to vote on whether they think it’s a good idea to make law school admissions test-optional. Many experts expected the House to agree and vote to remove Standard 503.
Well, the House of Delegates voted last week. And they voted to keep Standard 503 in place. So, law school admissions are not going test-optional. At least not yet.
In a slightly eccentric bit of procedure, the decision of whether to remove Standard 503 gets punted back to the division that initially voted to remove 503 in the first place. They’ll vote on whether they want to ignore the House of Delegates and make law school admissions test-optional anyway. They’ll make this decision on February 17, and we’ll be back to update you then.
So, why can’t these two ABA factions agree with one another? I mean, they both want the same thing, right? They want law schools to find talented and passionate students from diverse backgrounds and supply the ABA with a steady churn of qualified, competent new attorneys. So, what’s the deal?
The rub is that law school admissions haven’t been test-option since the pre-LSAT days of the 1940s. No one is quite sure what will happen if admissions go test-optional now.
To see this uncertainty, look no further than the debate over whether the removal of the LSAT will increase diversity in law schools. Opponents of Standard 503 argue that the standardized-test requirement is a roadblock for people from communities that are underrepresented in the legal field. It’s ironic, then, that those who defended Standard 503 to the ABA House of Delegates argued that removing the standardized-test requirement would decrease diversity at law schools. According to Reuters, Standard 503 opponents warned that eliminating the standardized-test requirement might lead law schools to weigh factors like “the prestige of an applicant’s college,” which “could disadvantage minority applicants.”
So, what will the ABA division do on February 17? This group first voted to nix Standard 503 by a margin of 15-1. So, there’s a good chance that they’ll be unmoved by the House of Delegates’ vote and make admissions test-optional anyway. And what if law school admissions go test-optional, then what will happen? We contemplated a few possible outcomes in an earlier post.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Any changes to the LSAT requirement wouldn’t go into effect until 2025.So, if you plan on applying to law school before then, you should take the LSAT.