It set the law school world on fire when Harvard Law School recently announced that it would give applicants the option of submitting a GRE score instead of an LSAT score.
Harvard Law School claims its purpose is to eliminate barriers to legal education. The LSAT, after all, is archaic in that it is only offered four times a year. The GRE, however, can be taken pretty much anytime. But this isn’t the point – the point is that the number of LSAT takers earning a score of 174+ has dropped significantly since the economy has recovered. (The number of people scoring 165-169 and 175+ has fallen as of the beginning of this year). People would rather earn six figures in investment banking than pay that much each year for law school, and this is not working well for Harvard.
HLS also cites the financial barrier presented by the LSAT to people who want to take both the GRE and the LSAT. But, let’s be honest, if the cost of the LSAT and LSAT prep is the reason you’re not applying to law school then (1) you probably don’t want to be a lawyer; and (2) you, unfortunately, cannot afford law school.
I agree with AboveTheLaw emphatically on two points:
- if someone goes to the trouble of taking the LSAT, they have put at least some thought into pursuing law school. It’s not “Oh, I’ll go to law school if I get into Harvard, otherwise I’ll keep working for this IP firm…”
- This is going to get HLS a lot more applications, but not necessarily from viable applicants. Everyone with a masters degree, no matter how dubious its origin, is going to throw their hat in the ring. And, even worse, other law school are sure to follow suit, recruiting more applicants who have no idea what they are getting themselves into by enrolling in law school. And will schools be more reluctant to offer scholarships to these individuals because they don’t help elevate the school’s rankings if the LSAT can’t be considered? Only time will tell, but I have a hunch.
There is a point in Harvard’s press release that I find interesting and valid: the intersection of various disciplines with law (such as engineering, etc.) mean that people with these specialized areas of knowledge would be valuable in law and arguably lack the time to score well enough on the LSAT to be otherwise considered at Harvard. However, it seems that HLS intends this “pilot program” to attract people who are only applying to one law school. Applicants using GRE scores will not have to register for LSAC or the Credential Assembly Service, apparently. They will have their own special (dare I say, secret) path that has yet to be announced. See their website for more cryptic information.
The real problem here isn’t Harvard. It’s LSAC and USNWR. If the LSAT would leave the dark ages behind and start offering a computer based version that could be taken at the convenience of the applicant, there would be less test anxiety, more test-takers, and therefore more applicants with higher scores. And, don’t even get me started on USNWR. If only we relied on it less, schools would rely less upon LSAT scores as criteria for admission.