PencilsIt was big news earlier this year when Harvard Law School announced that it would no longer require applicants to submit LSAT scores, but would also accept GRE scores as well. The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) has long been a mainstay of law school applications alongside the undergraduate transcript. In acknowledging that many students already take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam), Harvard’s position is that accepting the GRE  scores reduces the financial burden on applicants who would otherwise be required to prepare and pay for an additional test would be alleviated.   It is too early to know whether or not other schools might follow this example, for the LSAT is still mandated by the bulk of US law schools.

An interesting history of the LSAT can be found here.  Obviously there was once a time when even law school itself unnecessary for a successful career in law. (See this prime example!)  Even after law school became standard, greater social stratifications before World War II managed to keep applicants to a minimum,  with less need to evaluate them against each other.  But the war and the GI bill made educational dreams much more achievable for many, so the selection process had to be sharpened. Schools also wanted a tool to address to the wide variation in college records of their applicants.  This led to administration of the first LSAT in 1948.

The Harvard move now begs the question of how useful is the LSAT is for modern purposes.  Does it serve to broaden the applicant pool or constrict it?   The underlying rationale for the use of the LSAT is to avoid the biases that come with more arbitrary methods of selection, and yet the biggest criticism against the LSAT is that it is likewise biased.  There is also assertion that LSAT scores do not accurately predict a law student’s grades.   And even though the test costs $180, preparatory classes to maximize one’s score can easily reach into the thousands.  Yet opponents of the Harvard decision assert that law school is already is seen as a default choice by undergraduates uncertain of their next career-building step.  Thus, the LSAT presents a purposeful obstacle, requiring the potential student to consider carefully if law school is a worthwhile investment of their time and money.




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