Aspiring law school students have taken Law School Admissions Tests (LSATs) for 74 years to gauge their logical thinking abilities. Now, in a misguided attempt to “promote diversity,” the American Bar Association’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has voted to do away with the LSAT, despite the strong objections from the deans of nearly 60 law schools. Ending LSAT testing is a terrible idea. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board explains why:
The flight from merit continues across America, and it’s spreading fast in the legal profession. An arm of the American Bar Association (ABA), which accredits law schools, voted on Nov. 18 to end the requirement that prospective law students take the Law School Admission Test. And here we thought torturing prospective lawyers was a widely accepted public good.
The vote is pending approval from the ABA House of Delegates in February. If adopted, it would make standardized testing optional in preparation for a career that demands a lot of standardized knowledge.
The LSAT has long been a target of diversity advocates who argue that the use of the test has limited minority enrollment in law schools because the test questions are allegedly biased in favor of white test takers. Detractors also object to the LSAT because affluent students often pay thousands of dollars to prepare for the test that is supposed to predict their first-year law school performance.
The ABA decision is best understood as an attempt to get ahead of a possible Supreme Court decision against the use of racial preferences in school admissions. By making the LSAT optional, schools will be able to admit the students they want without lowering the average LSAT score that is one measure of elite status. But the schools need the ABA to move first.
The irony is that giving up the LSAT is likely to harm students from less privileged backgrounds. In September, 60 law school deans—including Berkeley Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Loyola University Chicago Dean Michèle Alexandre and Boston University’s Angela Onwuachi-Willig—wrote the ABA to oppose making the admissions test optional on grounds that it would damage diversity.
Removing standardized tests, the deans explained, requires admissions to focus more on grade-point average and other factors that are even less objective. The LSAT “index score can help identify students who are capable of performing at a satisfactory level, even though their grades alone and other indicia would not so indicate,” the letter notes. That applies especially to students from “less advantaged backgrounds and underrepresented groups.”
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