Phi Beta Cons

Should We Drop the LSAT?

If you want to go to law school, you have to take the Law School Admission Test. (There are, I believe, a few non-ABA accredited law schools that don’t require it, but they’re regarded as pretty much unthinkable options despite the fact that students learn the same material.) The LSAT is mostly a puffed up version of the SAT-verbal. People who are not good with the language are not apt to fare well in law school or the legal profession.

Like all tests these days, the LSAT is under fire. Is it the best predictor of success? Is it in any way unfair?

UC Berkeley thinks it has come up with a better test, as discussed in this IHE piece.

The report proclaims, “Definitions of ‘merit’ and ‘qualification’ have become too narrow and static; they hamper legal education’s goal of producing diverse, talented and balanced generations of law graduates who will serve the many mandates and constituencies of the legal profession.”  Blah, blah, blah. I have no brief for the LSAT, but talk like that, rooted in the notion that the legal profession has to be engineered to have just the right percentages of practitioners of various backgrounds and characteristics, gives me reason to pull for it.

This is all much ado about nothing. The United States already has too many students in law school. All that a change in entrance testing can do is to slightly rearrange where students go to law school. That doesn’t really matter either because the education one gets in law school is hardly different from “top” to “bottom” schools. (If you were blindfolded, a civil procedure class at Harvard would be indistinguishable from a civil procedure class at, say, Elon’s new law school.) If you want to get into the legal profession, you have to pass the bar exam and law school coursework has surprisingly little to do with that. For an appropriately iconoclastic view of the legal profession’s barriers to entry, check out this TCS piece by an Ohio lawyer.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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