For the second time in six years, the American Bar Association (ABA) has voted to keep the law school entrance exam requirement in place for schools seeking ABA accreditation. The vote took place at the ABA House of Delegates’ midyear meeting in New Orleans.

The ABA’s law school entrance exam requirement is unique among professional schools. Other professional programs like medical or business school typically require that applicants submit admission test scores, but the accreditation of schools is not dependent on requiring entrance exams.

Opponents of the ABA’s mandatory testing requirements question why law schools can’t be testing optional, too.

The History of Law School Admissions Testing

Much of the discussion regarding law school testing centers around the LSAT, first administered to prospective laws students in 1948. The test was created to level the playing field for students coming from different educational backgrounds.

Although the LSAT is the traditional law school admissions exam, in an effort to widen the pool of law school applicants, the ABA has allowed law schools to accept GRE scores in lieu of LSAT scores since 2021.

The Arguments

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has advocated for removing all law school admission test requirements since 2017. The Section argues that entrance exams keep racially diverse students from entering law school and out of the legal field.

For example, data shows that Black students, on average, score lower on the LSAT than Asian and white students. The average LSAT scores for white and Asian LSAT takers is 153. The average LSAT score for Black test takers is 142. The Section argues that this gap makes Black students less competitive law school candidates when compared to their white and Asian peers.

On the other side of the argument, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), a non-profit that drafts, administers, and receives most of its revenue from the LSAT, is against removing the testing requirement. Citing its own data, the LSAC argues that LSAT scores can help minority students gain entry into law school. For instance, the law school acceptance rate is the same (52%) for both Black and white law school applicants with college GPAs in the range of 3.0 to 3.24 and LSAT scores between 145 to 159.

What’s Next?

Although the testing optional proposal failed two times, that’s not the end of the story. The ABA’s Legal Education Council has the final word on the accreditation standards and can make changes to the standards without the House of Delegates’ approval after two failed votes.

While the ABA and law schools continue to deal with the admissions testing issue, racially diverse students remain the minority in U.S. law schools. However, LSAC’s analysis of the ABA’s recent law school admissions data indicates that the number of diverse students is increasing. In 2022, approximately 37% of first-year law students were from racial minority groups, up 28% from a decade ago. However, the percentage of first-year Black law students declined from 7.9% in 2021 to 7.8% in 2022.

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