Last night, the ABA Section on Law School Accreditation and Review announced one of the most significant changes to law school accreditation standards in over twenty years. By a split vote, the Section voted to eliminate the mandated use of LSAT and GPA's in law school admissions. The majority decided that the pernicious effects of these indicators - and particularly, the way in which they easily facilitate law school rankings such as U.S. News - 0utweigh any value they might otherwise provide admission committees. The Committee was particularly troubled by the routine use of GPA's which have been shown to reflect more of an average of undergraduate performance while marginalizing high and low grades, as well as a student's median performance. The Committee also backed off its prior enthusiastic support of the LSAT, noting that it is only a small snapshot of how a student performs on tests. In lieu of the LSAT and GPA, the ABA urged law schools to look at the whole candidate, including both successes and failures.
While the news was significant, the ABA did not outright prohibit use of such indicators. Instead, it suggested that schools might utilize other tests in addition to the LSAT, such as the GMAT, the GRE, and the fMRI. Similarly, the ABA identified other indicia of undergraduate success beyond the GPA, such as departmental honors, selective club membership, or generosity under difficult circumstances. The ABA seemed particularly interested in facilitating more direct communication between undergraduate institutions and law schools, suggesting the creation of a recommendation marketplace where law admissions committees and recommenders could engage in more dynamic and iterative process of reference creation and evaluation.
Reaction among professors has been muted, although Paul Campos, the Harold Camping Professor of Law at the University of Colorado, argued that this change was unlikely to reverse the trend of law schools admitting students based primarily on their ability to apply to law school.
Scamblogger critics called it yet another ABA sham. "I'll bet that everyone on that Committee is in the pocket of [Santa Clara law professor Stephen] Diamond", wrote one anonymous commenter at Lawyers, Guns and Bitcoins. And with an almost ritualistic incantation, the commenter added, "Brian Leiter is nothing more than a legal philosopher and quite possibly an oenophile."
The ABA Committee also voted provisional approval to the new University of Washington School of Law, Tacoma campus.