Should Law Schools Require the LSAT?

The admission test is now under review by the American Bar Association.

Feb. 19, 2011— -- For University of Texas senior Trevence Mitchell, preparing for the LSATs while working to pay his college tuition and balancing a full course load was a challenge.

"I did average," said Mitchell about his performance on the test. "I've always wanted to go to a top-tier school, so my score is well below what top-tier schools normally accept. I would have felt better applying if I would have been more confident in my score, but I did what I could do."Now, a Standards Review Committee from the American Bar Association may recommend an end to the LSAT requirement for law schools, and make it optional."With a tentative vote, a majority was in favor of eliminating the requirement," David Yellen, a member of the 14-person committee and dean of Loyola University Chicago School of Law, told ABC News.Currently, accredited law schools require a "valid and reliable" admissions test to "assist the school and the applicants in assessing the applicants' capability."Traditionally, this test has been the Law School Accreditation School, or LSAT.According to Donald Polden, committee chair and dean of Santa Clara Law, in Santa Clara, Calif., the LSAT has shown to be a reliable predictor of first-year performance for law school applicants, but "not how they will finish or what type of lawyer they will be," Polden emphasized.So far, first-year UT law student Claire Smyser agrees. "I think that if you have a lot of trouble on the LSAT, then I wouldn't be surprised if you have a lot of trouble in law school because it tests the same type of reasoning," she said.

Why Drop the LSAT?

Diversifying Law Schools

U.S. News and World Report Rankings

LSAT Pros and Cons

The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) administers 170,000 LSATs annually at testing centers worldwide. When contacted by ABC News, director of communications Wendy Margolis responded that the LSAC is currently "just waiting and seeing" what the ABA will decide about the LSAT requirement."We're not commenting on that right now because we really have not been informed of any decision by the ABA as yet," Margolis said.In his blog on the U.S. News website, Morse acknowledged the ABA's review of the LSAT requirement and defended this test's legitimacy. "We believe that comparing law schools on their students' LSATs and undergraduate GPAs is the most direct way of determining which schools have enrolled the 'best and brightest' students," he wrote.Morse also confirmed that the LSAT would remain a "heavily weighted factor" in their annual law school rankings regardless of their decision.Yellen said U.S. News may create rules for their rankings that impose a penalty on schools for whatever student they're not getting LSAT scores from. "If (U.S. News) does that, that would mean that most schools would continue to require the LSAT," he said.Dean Larry Sager, of the University of Texas Law School, where minority students make up 30 percent of the student body, said that getting rid of the LSAT requirement would allow schools more flexibility."The idea that the ABA should require accredited law schools to adopt a particular position about the LSAT strikes me as a mistake," said Sager, who believes that law schools should instead be measured by the rigor of their degree standards.Sager speculated that if the LSAT was optional, schools could avoid the test in certain situations where it might misrepresent applicants' abilities. Case in point: foreign law graduates.

"We're living in a global era and law schools are going to be educating a global population," Sager said. "The LSAT might or might not be a good measuring device for foreign law graduates who are coming to get the basic law degree in the United States."

Schools Continue to Support LSAT contributor Reshma Kirpalani is a member of the ABC News on Campus bureau in Austin, Texas.