“Harvard Law School is continually working to eliminate barriers as we search for the most talented candidates for law and leadership,” Dean Martha Minow said in a statement. “For many students, preparing for and taking both the GRE and the LSAT is unaffordable.This superficially seems like an admirable goal: make it easier for elite students to apply to law school. That's particularly true for a school like Harvard that would likely be taking top 10% GRE scores who could, if they sat for the test, surely score a 165+ on the LSAT fairly easily.
“...[G]iven the promise of the revolutions in biology, computer science, and engineering, law needs students with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds. For these students, international students, multidisciplinary scholars, and joint-degree students, the GRE is a familiar and accessible test, and using it is a great way to reach candidates not only for law school, but for tackling the issues and opportunities society will be facing.”
Of course, Harvard is but one of over two hundred law schools, and it's the exception, albeit one that absurdly sets trends.
Absent controlled studies of how a particular GRE score correlates to a particular LSAT score, this move simply gives applicants two bites at the apple, and schools yet another number to manipulate in their favor in compilation form. This is particularly troubling in an age when the declining applicant pool has led to declining LSAT numbers and often correlates with declining bar passage rates three years later.
How do GRE scores correlate with bar passage rates? Anyone have anything close to an educated guess? Sounds like once the rest of the schools follow Arizona and Harvard's lead, they've got at least a five year window before there's enough data to show anything worth reporting.
There are other obvious problems with Harvard's reasoning, such as:
- Nothing stops those students from taking the LSAT;
- Nothing stopped law schools from accepting the GRE years ago;
- Nothing stops the LSAT from being as accessible as the GRE;
- If you're legitimately worried about your students' ability to drop the two hundred bucks for the LSAT, set up a voucher/scholarship program...and if that's a concern, maybe it's a good time to ask whether students in such financial straits are really good options to incur hundreds of thousands in student loan debt.
Do you remember, like 2011ish, when we got arguments like this one?
Kent Syverud, dean of the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, where applications this year declined more than 11%, said it was a good thing prospective students now were more “clear eyed” about the risks and rewards of a law degree.
“The froth in the applicant pool—those who were just going to law school because they didn’t know what else to do and everyone told them it was a safe bet—is pretty well gone,” he said.And here's Sheli Soto, Arizona State, spring of 2012:
"I do think one of the key results in that national discussion is that students who are looking at graduate school and law are being much more serious and deliberate (about) whether or not they want to apply to law school."And here's Jerry Organ making a corollary argument just a year and a half ago:
[W]ith the decline in the number of applicants to law school, one might surmise that those choosing to go to law school really are serious about their investment in a legal education and may be working harder to be successful in law school...Yup, better quality applicant pool - at least in terms of focus and commitment. There's never really been any empirical evidence for it (how would prove seriousness?), but it's an argument we've heard repeatedly post-decline: that an advantage of a smaller applicant pool is that the students no longer applying were the least interested in eventually being lawyers.
Doesn't this shift away from the LSAT completely demolish this stupid argument, at least as to the benefits claimed by law school apologists?
If there's one thing a serious law school applicant will do, it's prepare-for and take the LSAT. Arguably the LSAT - which is not without its problems - serves as a rudimentary gatekeeper for "seriousness." Those not willing to plunk $160 and sit a few hours on a Saturday morning? Not serious about law school.
If law schools had any interest in an applicant's level of determination, seriousness, personal investment, whatever, there would be no discussion whatsoever of dropping the LSAT or seeking alternatives.
In reality, law schools generally don't know an applicant's "seriousness" and they really don't give a shit.
By allowing the GRE, law schools like Arizona, Harvard, and soon to be many others, are opening their gluttonous mouths wide for the same "froth" they pretended was a bane to the pre-decline law school world.
That froth - assuming the law schools ever had the palette to discovery it - only tasted remotely sour before this whole thing with declining LSATs and bar passage rates. Now that froth is the sweet and savory deliciousness of knowledge diversity and access for those of all backgrounds.
So go ahead, law schools, and admit applicants on the LSAT, GRE, spelling bee, or on sending twenty cereal boxtops to a PO Box in Pooville.
Just never tell us again about how the applications are more "serious" or "focused" when they can't even be bothered to take the standard admissions test.