Bid to end law schools’ LSAT requirement is down but not out

Signage is seen outside of the American Bar Association (ABA) in Washington, D.C.
Signage is seen outside of the American Bar Association (ABA) in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • The measure could be enacted without approval by the ABA's policymaking body
  • The ABA in 2019 enacted a higher bar pass standard over objections from the House of Delegates

Feb 8 (Reuters) - The push to make law school admissions “test optional” is not dead yet, even after the American Bar Association’s policymaking body this week rejected a bid to end the rule that schools use the Law School Admission Test or another standardized exam when assessing applicants.

The ABA's House of Delegates voted down the proposal on Monday over concerns that dropping the test requirement would harm the interests of law student diversity, marking the second time such a plan has failed.

Under ABA rules, that means the decision is now up to another part of the organization, the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. The 20-member council already voted in November in favor of ending the testing mandate in 2025, arguing that law schools need more flexibility in how they admit students and that the ABA stands alone in requiring professional schools to use an admissions test.

The council was “disappointed” in this week's vote, said William Adams, the ABA’s managing director for accreditation and legal education. It will consider its next steps when it meets Feb. 17 in Phoenix. It could revise the proposal, resubmit it unchanged to the house for consideration in August, or drop it.

The murky future of the testing mandate adds to mounting uncertainty for law school admissions offices. The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to strike down affirmative action at colleges and universities across the country after hearing several challenges to race-conscious admissions policies. And the influential U.S. News & World Report law school rankings are in flux amid a growing boycott.

The ABA's legal education council bypassed objections from the House of Delegates in 2019 when it implemented a tougher bar passage standard for law schools. But it backed off a previous attempt to drop the LSAT rule due to house opposition. It first proposed eliminating the testing mandate from the accreditation standard in 2018.

The resistance to a test optional future for law schools is likely to be short lived, predicted Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which opposes standardized testing.

“Admissions leaders increasingly recognize that test scores do not measure merit,” he said.

Read more:

ABA votes to keep law school standardized test requirement

Law schools face 'biggest jolt' in decades with LSAT rule change, U.S. News exodus

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at