TestMasters Warns That Abandoning the LSAT Will Hurt Aspiring Lawyers
LOS ANGELES, August 16, 2022 (Newswire.com) - The American Bar Association is currently considering amending its Standard 503 and making standardized testing optional in the law school admissions process. TestMasters, an education company that has helped hundreds of thousands of law school applicants prepare for the LSAT, is contributing to the public debate by publishing a series of articles during the open public comment period, which expires on Sept. 1.
The LSAT helps aspiring lawyers in two important ways. First, it prevents many of them from wasting time and money: it helps ensure that law schools admit only those applicants who are likely to complete their legal education and pass the bar. Second, it provides those who have had limited educational opportunities or who have encountered obstacles early in their academic careers with a way to demonstrate their skills, giving them a chance to compete for spots at the nation's best law schools.
"Law school is an enormous commitment," says Jeff Benjamin, TestMasters' regional director for the Pacific Northwest. "Students interrupt their lives, give up jobs, and forego other opportunities to pursue a legal career, often racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. The consequences of leaving law school without earning a J.D. can be devastating." He notes that people who take the LSAT get a straightforward assessment of the risk that they will be unable to complete a legal education — and get it before they upend their lives in pursuit of one.
According to an analysis of the ABA's attrition data, the rate at which students fail out of law school tends to increase sharply as a school's median LSAT score decreases. During the 2015-16 school year, for example, the average academic attrition rate at schools with median LSAT scores of 160 or higher was 0.2%. At schools with median LSAT scores between 150 and 154, the rate was 4.6%, and at schools with median LSAT scores below 150, the rate was 13.5%. At the 10 schools with median LSAT scores below 145, the average academic attrition rate was an astounding 25.3%.
Furthermore, a Law School Transparency report shows that a school's median LSAT score is closely correlated with its graduates' bar passage rates. Graduates of law schools with median LSAT scores between 145 and 150 were deemed to be at a "very high risk" of failing the bar, and graduates of schools with median LSAT scores below 145 were deemed to be at "extreme risk." The report also examined data from two particular schools and found that among graduates who had entered law school with LSAT scores below 150, less than 40 percent were ultimately able to pass the bar.
Benjamin believes that, if schools cease to require the LSAT, an increasing number of applicants who don't have a realistic view of their chances of completing all the steps needed to practice law would end up being admitted to law school. "More people would put time, effort, and money into a legal education without seeing any tangible benefits, and without any possibility of getting a refund."
Another important way that the LSAT helps applicants is by giving those whose academic performance was impacted by factors beyond their control — or who just had one bad semester — a chance to show that they're ready for the challenge of law school. As others have pointed out, many people face life circumstances — such as the need to care for family members — that force them to give up educational opportunities, and many others hesitate to spend six figures on an undergraduate degree knowing that the cost of law school awaits. As an objective, reliable indicator of law school success, the LSAT gives applicants from every academic background a chance to be admitted to an elite school.
Hailey Evans, a TestMasters instructor with more than a decade of LSAT teaching experience, is concerned that without the LSAT to level the playing field, the admissions process will inevitably favor applicants who attended more prestigious undergraduate institutions, obtained better internships, and submitted more favorable letters of recommendation — all things that favor wealthy, well-connected applicants. "Elite law schools would be able to perpetuate their reputations by preferring students from elite undergraduate schools, and elite undergraduate schools would be able to perpetuate their reputations by sending their graduates to elite law schools."
In TestMasters' view, abandoning the LSAT wouldn't just deprive many highly qualified candidates of their chance to shine, it would remove a critical guardrail by encouraging both schools and applicants to refuse to consider information that pertains directly to whether pursuing a legal career is likely to pay off. A fair and honest decision about whether to admit a candidate to law school requires an objective measure — and the LSAT is by far the best measure available.