Is Harvard Trying to Kill the LSAT?

March 15, 2017

Harvard Law recently announced that it would accept the GRE in place of the LSAT for its applicants beginning this fall. Harvard stated that the decision was a matter of access, stating that the “GRE is offered frequently throughout the year and in numerous locations around the world.” Before making the change, the school studied the success of law students who had taken both the GRE and the LSAT and found GRE scores to be equally predictive of law school success.

Law school applications and admissions have been falling since the financial crisis, and law schools have been scrambling to adjust, generally lowering their standards in order to keep up enrollment as much as possible. This has caused law school graduates to be less impressive on the whole, and bar passage rates to drop too. The recruiting director of a Vault Top 10 firm recently explained to me that law isn’t as sexy as it once was, with many top students aspiring to work in finance or for a tech company.

So it makes sense to try to attract a wider law school applicant pool, and accepting the GRE in place of the LSAT could widen the pool in two important ways. First, because so many people looking to go to grad school take the GRE anyway, they may be more inclined to apply to law school than they would if they had to take the specialized LSAT that is only useful for law school. Further, accepting the GRE could increase the number of international students applying to U.S. law schools. The GRE is offered in about 1,000 testing centers in 160 countries and can be taken by an individual at nearly any time. The LSAT is only offered in fewer than 700 testing centers in 61 countries and is only offered four times a year.

Although Arizona became the first law school to accept the GRE in place of the LSAT last year, Harvard’s prestige makes its decision much more likely to change the landscape of law school admissions. Harvard’s competitors in the top tier will likely follow suit quickly so as not to give Harvard a recruiting edge, and this will trickle down to other law schools too. It’s hard to see the LSAT surviving this change. Any student who is thinking of applying to any other type of grad school in addition to law school will be incentivized to take the GRE, and the flexible scheduling of the GRE will make the LSAT non-competitive. It may hang on for a few years, but it’s unlikely anyone will be taking the LSAT in a decade’s time.

by Matt Moody

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