By Amanda Gonzalez Garcia
Remember how Rachel Zane, Meghan Markle’s character on “Suits,” was stuck as the firm’s best paralegal because she could not pass the law school entrance exam? Well, for people like her who suffer from test anxiety, the LSAT may soon become a thing of the past.
The American Bar Association (ABA) panel stirred up quite the controversy after announcing plans last fall to eliminate the admittance exam known as the LSAT or Law School Admission Test. Since the news, there is a divide in the legal field from schools, administration, practicing counsel, and students.
The LSAT is broken down into two sections; “The first part consists of several 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. The second part of the LSAT consists of a 35-minute, unscored LSAT Writing sample.” And until this June, this test is conducted remotely.
This policy change is expected to go into effect in the fall of 2025.
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, “In the grand scheme of things, folks of color perform less well on the LSAT than not, and for that reason, I think we are headed in the right direction,” Leo Martinez, an ABA council member and dean emeritus at University of California, Hastings College of the Law, said at the meeting, “I am sympathetic that it gives people like me a chance.”
But there is still time to halt or move this policy change forward. It has to move to the ABA’s House of Delegates, but they are not ultimately the delegating power.
The anti-testing wave is a newly supported phenomenon.
“Coming at the same time that the number of colleges requiring standardized test scores for undergraduate admissions continues to decline, the ABA decision is almost sure to add momentum to the broader anti-test wave. A survey earlier this month revealed that more than 80 percent of U.S. bachelor-degree granting institutions will not require students seeking fall 2023 admission to submit either ACT or SAT standardized exam scores,” wrote Forbes.
Others see this policy change as a negative tool that can ultimately affect admissions.
The Wall Street Journal said, “Representatives from the Law School Admission Council, which administers the LSAT, and ETS, a nonprofit education testing service, told the council making testing optional would result in the admission of some law students who are unprepared to succeed, which it said would ultimately hurt the legal profession.”
As it is, each school is free to require or not require the LSAT. This can be a big push or toll for students who wish to become lawyers and their ability to perform in this exam.
Kriseanna Cotton is a third-year law student at Barry's Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law and a Juris Doctorate, class of 2023.
She said that in her personal experience the LSAT yields high amounts of stress and anxiety but she is grateful for having gone through it.
“I am grateful of my experiences with the LSAT, because the struggles that came with taking the test made me evaluate just how important a Juris Doctorate degree is to me,” she said. “I put a lot of time, effort and money into making sure I scored high enough to beat the odds of me successfully penetrating this white-dominated area of practice.”
All in all, though, she has determined that the burden of the exam far outweigh the benefit of the test itself and it has become “an unnecessary nuisance.”
“I am excited for the end of this era and look forward to seeing the growth in the Black lawyer community,” she said.
Cotton believes a change like this can do a lot for Black students.
“Many times, LSAT takers must obtain their own study materials and if they cannot afford the prep, it is very likely that they will score in the lower percentiles,” she said.
She admits that the test, nothwithstanding, Black students who score within the same percentiles as their counterparts still receive far less admission offers than their counterparts.
“Nearly half of Black law school applicants were not admitted to a single school which is a reason that only five percent of lawyers are Black,” she said.
In the end, some students can retake the test several times yet their score does not increase. Critics believe this to be an unrealistic measurement of a student’s intelligence and an unfair means for school acceptance.
In a survey conducted by Kaplan Inc. on 82 law schools measured whether they would follow this policy or not, “thirty said they would be ‘very likely’ to continue to require tests while 37 said they were undecided. Only two schools said they would be very unlikely to continue requiring an admission exam,” per The Wall Street Journal.