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March 26, 2014

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Jojo

Dear ABA,

These proposals are nothing more than giveaways to law schools. Let's cap debt. Let's impose real bar passage requirements. Why in heaven's name would you exclude a certain percentage of applicants from taking the LSAT? And who has the temerity to propose such a change?

Lawprofs from real schools, Wake up! This is why the scam mantra has lets. Look at it! What else could it be?

BoredJD

"Allowing 10% of an entering class to be admitted without LSAT scores"

No more bailouts for the law schools. If you can't find people who will actually sit for the LSAT and get a halfway decent score your school should close. There comes a point at which a student simply cannot pass the bar and cannot do even basic legal work.

"Allowing students to be paid at externships for which they receive credit"

Good. If you don't win the 1L grades lottery, you need to be out working, hustling, and trying to build connections so when a job comes up you're the first name that people call or recommend. Sitting in class does not do that. Working does, and law students should at least be compensated for that time AND allow it to apply to graduation and defray the very high toll price that your schools pay to allow them to take the bar.

Nathan

What is the rationale for allowing schools to enroll students who never took the LSAT? If the LSAT is that flawed of a measure, don't require the LSAT. Period. I really don't get this 10% nonsense.

Ellen

I was involved with the ABA Section of Legal Ed. for years, serving on many site teams. Until this point (or maybe I should say the vote to keep tenure in the Standards), I did not think that the ABA -- or I should say -- the Section of Legal Ed.-- was totally in bed with the law schools, but now I do.

The "big" ABA had better get involved here. It is supposed to have the best interests of the profession and public as its core mission. Clearly, the Section of Legal Ed. is only interested in keeping the non-elite school deans and profs who populate its committees and site teams employed.

I don't care if kids get paid and credit for externships. In fact, a paid job may provide far more valuable experience than a free position. I know that was my experience.

Allowing 10% of a class in without the LSAT? How is that fair to the 90%? What is the criteria? It will start with 10% and go up incrementally from there.

Consequences

"Allowing 10% of a class in without the LSAT? How is that fair to the 90%? What is the criteria? It will start with 10% and go up incrementally from there."

Why not simply abolish the LSAT? It would be much less embarrassing for law schools if they could disguise the extent to which they are lowering their standards to get warm bodies in the door.

ATLprof

Yeah, the LSAT one makes no sense at all … until you actually go and read what the proposal actually is. From the Notice and Comment Memo:

"The proposed Interpretation provides that a law school may admit no more than 10% of an entering class without requiring the LSAT from students in an undergraduate program of the same institution as the J.D. program; and/or students seeking the J.D. degree in combination with a degree in a different discipline. Applicants admitted must have scored at the 85th percentile nationally, or above, on a standardized college or graduate admissions test, specifically the ACT, SAT, GRE, or GMAT; and must have ranked in the top 10% of their undergraduate class through six semesters of academic work, or achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above through six semesters of academic work."

So it is not just giving schools a free pass to take anyone in that 10% of the class. That being said, I'm still not sure why it is needed...

Ellen

ATLProf: The language you quote makes this even more puzzling.

Suppose the undergraduate program at the same institution is mediocre; suppose the applicant took the LSAT decades ago (I know this will be few applicants today since not many people enter law as a second profession any more, but it can still happen); suppose the college attended was mediocre? It is one thing to allow this for elite schools and graduates of elite programs, but there are a lot of very bad colleges out there, so getting a 3.5 GPA may not be that hard.

Is it going to be up to the law school to pick and choose which applicants do not have to take the LSAT or are they to apply this standard to all applicant who qualify, regardless of what undergraduate institution they attended?

I don't see how it benefits an applicant. School A may take advantage of the rule but school B may not, so if the applicant wants to apply to A and B, she has to take the LSAT.

ATLprof

Ellen,

It really doesn't benefit the applicant from the same school. It is a way to admit the students to the law school without them taking the LSAT and thus being able to apply to other law schools. They want to gain a recruitment advantage by making it easier to apply to their own school than applying to another school. I think Michigan wanted to do something like this, or maybe did under a variance.

Sure, there may be bad colleges out there, but how many have law schools attached to them? Law schools where a high grading student from their own undergrad would not be very likely to be admitted? Students who have to have scored well on some other standardized test at some point? Remember it's an "AND" between the scoring well on a different standardized test and the GPA/rank requirement.

It actually does make some sense for a dual degree program in some ways. If a students has taken the GMAT to go to business school, but ends up wanting to do a joint JD/MBA program, they would have to prepare for and take two tests instead of one. Not a huge burden, but I can see where they are coming from. And the one with a joint program doesn't seem like it would be that easy to abuse. I don't think schools are going to go out and create joint degree programs just so they can squeeze in a few students who are high scorers on another standardized test without them having to take the LSAT. It's just making it easier for a JD program to recruit a few more students from other professional schools as joint degree students.

anon

If the purpose of the provision were to carve out exceptions for JD/MBA folks, the wording would have denoted “the GMAT may be accepted in lieu of the LSAT, should the applicant be enrolled in a JD/MBA program.” Similarly, a provision accepting the GRE would have been detailed for other dual-degree programs.

However, the language is more ambiguous than that. I doubt this is an accident.

It reads as though this is a sneaky way of provisionally approving 3+3 programs. Note the "10% . . . in an undergraduate program of the same institution as the J.D. program” language.

This leads to three questions:

(1) Is the LSAT worth imposing, or is it not? If the schools truely found the LSAT to be relevant, they would care about the LSAT without regard to a 10% exception.

(2) What about grade inflation at the undergrad level, specifically in the inevitable “pre-law” department? Don’t pretend that schools won’t do something to shorten what is typically a 4-year process.

Sure, universities guilty of grade inflation tend to be better, but the fact is that a 3.5 at Purdue in engineering isn’t the same as a 3.5 at UGA in theatre performance.

The LSAC GPA already denotes percentiles for applicants’s GPAs. Whether that’s only of the subgroup who applies to law school, or percentiles across the university, the law school will already have some information about a student’s relative performance on hand. Telling the pre-law department to inflate grades shouldn’t be the next game for the admissions office.

(3) Schools will have a conflict of interest regarding undergrads in a 3+3 program. Schools have a willing customer, who is relying on not having an LSAT score (either by not having one at all, or doing poorly enough for the school to put this applicant in the 10%) good enough to go somewhere percieved to be better. Is there anyone more at risk of being charged sticker price for law school? This is a problem waiting to happen.

Oh, BTW, if the Standard 509 only notes quartiles, 25% is admitted without regard to LSAT anyway. 10% more isn’t necessary. I speculate that this group, whose LSATs aren’t counted, tend to have the higher GPA...but that’s another story.

Bob

The ABA will never allow paid externships for credit. The want that tuition money and free labor.

JR

Is the GMAT applicable to law schools and therefore should logically be accepted in lieu of it? I honestly don't know, but I can't imagine medical schools taking the GRE in lieu of the MCAT.

ATLprof

With paid externships for credit, the tuition money is still there; it still gets paid to the school. So that would not be a reason for the ABA to not allow it (unless I'm misunderstanding what you are saying).

I'm not sure how much the free labor of law students doing externships figures into the decision making process of the Council and ABA. I guess it is a possibility. There are some employers who would feel more comfortable paying rather than having a free student getting credit. Some are scared of being sued under labor laws (even though the school granting credit reduces that possibility quite a bit). For others, like many JAG programs, they have to pay or they can't have the person work for them (yay for bureaucracy?).

We are seeing a current movement in a lot of areas beyond law schools against taking advantage of students and recent students by having them work for free (e.g. unionization attempts of college football players and class action lawsuits against unpaid internships).

The real hurdle is not going to be opposition from within the ABA, in my opinion. It's going to be (potentially) the strong opinions against it from those who run externship programs. When this was first floated 5 or 6 years ago, my impression was the ratio was like 95% strongly against it. That may have shifted with the continued economic problems. I kind of hope it has. Yes, it presents more challenges for those administering the programs in trying to insure that the experience is educational, but students should be able to get paid for their work.

Mark P. Yablon

The LSAT tests how well you take a timed test over a narrow skill set. But it is not God. No single standardized test reliably will predict your future success in law school or in the practice of law.

The LSAT does not test (under pressure or not) how well you: write or speak, keep your word, develop mutually beneficial relationships, efficiently and effectively complete your work, follow-through, tenaciously represent your clients or apply life experiences to real-world situations. The LSAT does not test math, accounting, business or social skills or work ethic, integrity, respect for others, compassion, enthusiasm, attitude or ability to complete a project despite the smarter people in the room.

Contrary to the elitists or uniformed, no standardized test can predict who is brighter or will become a successful attorney. But objective, quantifiable data does make it easier to accept or reject thousands of applicants for limited seats. And it gives cover when a poor applicant is accepted over a good applicant.

Heavy reliance on the LSAT, and thus its artificial importance, reminds me of a book I read about a military test given to new recruits. The test selected officer candidates. Eventually it was proven the test was as predicative as flipping a coin. But the military continued the tests because it always used it and there was so much quantifiable data on which to rely. Sound familiar to the LSAT controversy?

The solution is not simple for those wanting a caste system for good order or the status quo regardless of the original intention of selecting quality applicants who eventually will practice law. But the following suggestion is valid. Each law school should be able to use the LSAT, GRE, GMAT and other standardized tests along with any other criteria the law school deems relevant or helpful.

Instead of limiting America to attorneys with the common experience of doing well on the LSAT, the legal market should be open to a broader group of people who are competent in a variety of areas. More diversity in the selection process creates a more vibrant and diverse student population. That will produce lawyers who can better tune into their mixed client needs at an affordable cost. And that will benefit all levels of society, which also will elevate the profession’s reputation and general acceptance.

John Thompson

There is a non-trivial correlation between one's ability to do well on the LSAT and the ability to pass a bar exam, and almost none between uGPA and the bar exam. As flawed as it is, it's currently the only ex ante basis by which a law school might judge how likely a prospective student is to pass a bar exam, which he must do if he is to practice law. If there were research showing those other tests to be as predictive or more predictive than the LSAT in this way, then it would not bother anyone if those were used instead of (or in conjunction with) the LSAT.

The only reason law schools are considering non-LSAT takers is pecuniary - as the number of LSAT takers remains depressed and the market for 1Ls remains bearish, they need other pools from which to draw. If meeting "mixed client needs at an affordable cost" were simply about the supply of attorneys, then the last six years of hugely unemployed and underemployed graduating classes would have solved that problem. Law schools only want a way around their own accreditation standards are preventing them from placing enough federal loan conduits in their classes to stay solvent; this has nothing to do with the welfare of their graduates or their future client base, if any.

JillyfromPhilly

Can anyone explain the rationale behind requiring a student to have scored in the 85th percentile nationally on the ACT, SAT, GRE or GMAT, when schools like Drexel (155) and Santa Clara (157) enroll classes where the median student's score is 155 (63rd percentile) and 157 (70th percentile) respectively, on the LSAT? If the 85th percentile is the cutoff for other tests, why wouldn't the same standard make sense for the LSAT?

Jeff Harrison

Does anyone know if unpaid externships have an impact on employment for law school grades? If you have hundreds of them and they are actually doing something of value there must be some impact on law grads or others.

twbb

Mark,

The LSAT absolutely does reflect how well you write or speak, efficiently and effectively complete your work. If you cannot understand what the test is trying to say in the reading comprehension section, then that does reflect your facility with language. If you can't finish the LSAT in the time allotted, then you have not used your time efficiently and effectively.

As for allowing a broader selection of students, law schools are already almost open admission by this point. Even if you score dismally on the LSAT, an ABA-accredited school somewhere will almost certainly be likely to accept you.

anon

A student at the median at one ABA accredited law school last year - 143 - scored worse on the LSAT than about 80% of all other takers.
Again, is it necessary to maintain ANY standards? Say what you will about the LSAT, does scoring in the bottom 20% mean anything?
Should a sense of responsibility within the academy find some sort of concrete expression?
I suppose it has, right here in this thread: some argue to eliminate the LSAT entirely!
That won't happen anytime soon.
Is there any reason a law school would want to exclude from the profile of an incoming class LSAT scores in the 85th percentile? The need to admit a student without inclusion of that student's LSAT score in the stats can only mean that student obtained a poor score or no score.
The need to admit a full 10% of an incoming class with NO LSAT score is dubious. This is especially true if to qualify for admission with no LSAT score, schools will be purportedly required to require a student to have placed at or near the top of his/her UG class and to have taken another graduate school admission test.

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