Harvard Will Make It Easier For People Who Won’t Get Into Harvard To Be Taken Advantage Of
The LSAT is an overvalued standardized test that serves an important, irreplaceable function. Both things are true at the same time.
Law schools place entirely too much emphasis on an applicant’s LSAT score. It’s a lazy tool, used more to appease U.S. News than as a credible attempt to assess a person’s readiness for legal education.
The LSAT is an entirely artificial barrier, but it’s still an important barrier to entry to legal education. While some might say that legal education should be more accessible to a wider range of people, I contend that the best way to do that would be to lower the price of law school to a point where people didn’t have to go into a lifetime of debt to afford it. The problem with law school is that it costs too much, not that it’s too hard to get into.
The LSAT at least requires people to think critically about whether or not they want legal education, as opposed to just more education. That’s an important distinction, especially when you are asking twenty-somethings to fork over three years and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But the LSAT is dead as a gatekeeper. Harvard Law killed it, yesterday, when it announced the launch of a pilot program to allow people to apply to HLS based solely on their GRE scores. Other schools will follow, now that Harvard has given them cover. The GRE is a more widely administered test; accepting it will allow law schools to widen their applicant pools. Accepting the GRE will make law school an “option” to whole swaths of students who don’t know what they want to do with their lives, but are damn sure that going out spinning a humanities degree into a retail salesman job at Gamestop is not for them.
People will still take the LSAT, of course, because… no math. The GRE has math questions, and math scares people. Hell, for some people half the point of going to law school is to avoid math. The LSAT isn’t going anywhere.
It just won’t be as effective at doing its one useful job: keeping people out of law school who haven’t bothered to think through what law school really means. Let’s say you’re sitting there with a decent GRE score and you’ve applied to half a dozen graduate programs. Why wouldn’t you throw in a couple of law school applications? What, the application fee is a deal breaker? Accepting the GRE puts law school in the “impulse buy” kiosk near the checkout counter. “I just came in to apply to some history programs and buy some toilet paper. Oh, there’s also a law school application I can fill out? Eh, why the hell not?”
People will end up being accepted to law school who didn’t seriously consider going to law school until their acceptance letter came in the mail. That is a recipe for some disgruntled, trapped “lawyers,” who find themselves living a life they never chose, in too much debt to get out.
Harvard says that it’s accepting GRE applications to increase “access” to legal education: which is rich coming from a school that admits a lower percentage of applicants than Leonardo DiCaprio’s pants. What it’s really doing is making an appeal to high-end applicants who have been “brain drained” away from law by market turmoil.
This just so happens to be a GREAT time to go get those people. The reputation of lawyers is probably as high as it’s ever been, what with lawyers being on the front lines of the fight against authoritarianism and hate sponsored by the current presidential administration. Legal training has never been more tied to the fight for “justice.”
But what motivates people to go to Harvard Law School also motivates people to go to Western Southeastern School of Law and Lap Dances. Making a hairpin decision to go to HLS to join the fight is one thing. Making the same decision to go to a legal diploma mill is another, much more ruinous thing.
When lower-ranked schools start accepting the GRE, it’ll be like planting a fig tree in the middle of a tar pit. Kids will see it, think that it seems attainable, and get stuck in the muck long before they reach their goal. I mean, that happens to thousands of law students every year ANYWAY, even with the LSAT acting as a gate around the trap. Remember, some “barriers” are there to protect you. You’re not doing students any favors by allowing them to bypass a test that at least attempts to ascertain if law school is a good fit for the prospective student.
Again, the LSAT has a lot of problems. If the inclusion of the GRE means that more schools will be less reliant on any particular standardized test score, that would be a good thing. But the one thing that the LSAT told you was that at least the people who took it wanted to go to law school enough that they took a separate, specialized entrance exam to get in.
There’s value in making people jump through that hoop. If you can commit to pursuing a course of study for three years, if you can commit to passing a difficult licensing exam before you are able to profit from your investment over those three years, then you should be able to commit to taking the LSAT.
It should be hard to get into law school. You shouldn’t just end up there. Accepting the GRE doesn’t make legal education more accessible, it just makes it easier to give law schools all your money. People who end up at Harvard Law School because they couldn’t think of anything better to do (cough cough), we’ll be okay. Maybe HLS really won’t take use the GRE to take advantage of students who haven’t thought things through, but other schools will.
It’s like Harvard wanted to go big game hunting, and so it changed the laws at the game park. They’ll be admiring their stupid mounted trophy when the real poachers move in.
Earlier: Harvard Law School To LSAT: Drop Dead
Elie Mystal is an editor of Above the Law and the Legal Editor for More Perfect. He can be reached @ElieNYC on Twitter, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will resist.
Published at Thu, 09 Mar 2017 23:28:35 +0000
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