It was bound to happen: Last month, two law schools – the State University of New York-Buffalo Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law – announced they would admit students without requiring an LSAT score; instead, they stated they would admit students based on their undergraduate grade point average and scores on standardized tests other than the LSAT.
Not surprisingly, many pre-law students erupted in euphoria. The LSAT understandably causes a lot of pain for students. The thought that these two law schools were just the beginning of a “snowball” trend of schools dropping the LSAT requirement led many to begin speculating they could forego the exam altogether.
Students should not be so quick, however, to jump on that bandwagon. As Mark Twain once said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
Even if a few more law schools drop the LSAT as a requirement for admission, students should still prepare for and take the exam.
Admittedly, it might be difficult to take our word for it. After all, we are an LSAT prep course, and our business is premised on the existence of – and requirement to take – the LSAT. Nevertheless, here are 6 compelling reasons (that have nothing to do with the preservation of any LSAT prep course) for why students should take the exam despite this new developing trend.
1) The LSAT Can Help You Determine if You Will Perform Well in Law School
Pursing a legal career is a decision that shapes your future and locks you into a certain path – at least for some time. Like any career decision, you should not pursue a specific career if either you don’t like the area or are not good at it. Most people would agree with that advice. For example, if you failed that biology exam or just don’t like the subject, perhaps a medical career isn’t your cup of tea.
The same principle should apply with a legal career. The Law School Admission Council (the company that writes the LSAT) has released data demonstrating that LSAT scores are a good indicator of how students will perform their first year of law school and on the bar exam. Therefore, the LSAT can help you decide if a legal career is right for you. If you understand the logic on the exam and get a good LSAT score, you will likely perform well in law school and beyond. If you don’t do well on the LSAT and can’t grasp the logic, then perhaps you need to reconsider a legal career.
That isn’t meant to be harsh; the legal world is competitive, and you should ensure you have some chance of success before jumping in. The LSAT – while (still) being an important requirement for admission to law school – represents a valuable tool for understanding whether you will perform well in law school and in areas that you will use when practicing law. It costs just $170 to take the LSAT (compared with the $150,000+ it will cost you to go to law school). Even if you hate the exam or might not need it for a few law schools, you should embrace it – and take it – for this purpose.
2) Don’t Base a Personal Decision on a Law School’s Business Decision
James Gardner, the dean of SUNY Buffalo’s law school, hinted that the decision to drop his school’s LSAT requirement was designed to allow the school to increase its enrollment. First-year enrollments have declined by approximately 20% since 2011 at SUNY Buffalo. Like any business, SUNY Buffalo and the University of Iowa College of Law must take steps to maintain or increase revenue. The principal way to achieve that goal is to increase enrollment. Dropping the LSAT, as described by Gardner, “address[es] that problem to the extent that [it] remove[s] what is, for some students, an obstacle for applying to law school.” In other words, these law schools’ decisions are business decisions bred from a desire for self-preservation.
While there is nothing wrong with that, students should not follow suit and dispense with taking the LSAT. Law school folks want you to enroll in law school not because they think you will be a good lawyer, but because they want you to pay them tuition. They may not be as concerned about you and your career as they might be with getting you in the door.
Attending law school, and becoming a lawyer, is a deeply personal decision. As demonstrated above, the LSAT can help you determine if law school is right for you. Accordingly, simply because two law schools (and perhaps others) are removing a significant barrier of entry should not mean students should decide on a law career without taking the LSAT. Instead, use the LSAT as a tool to make the best personal decision for yourself.
3) The LSAT Can Help You Get Into a Better Law School
This year, the University of Iowa and SUNY Buffalo were ranked #27 and #100, respectively. Nothing against either school, but, if you aspire to being admitted to a top-10 or top-20 law school (or just one of 99 law schools that were ranked higher than SUNY Buffalo), you need to take the LSAT because these other schools (with few exceptions) require the LSAT for admission and consideration.
Some students might counter (or rationalize) by arguing, “Well, I’ve always wanted to go to [School X That Doesn’t Require the LSAT].” Our answer to that: Why would you place a ceiling on your career prospects? If you take the LSAT and get a good score, you automatically broaden your opportunities because you will have the ability to get admitted to a very good law school and increase your chances of landing a great job upon graduation. Sure, you can always go ahead and attend School X, but at least now you know that you can do better (if you want to). There is tremendous upside in taking the LSAT.
4) The LSAT Can Help You Get Into Other Law Schools
Have you ever been to Buffalo? What about Iowa? If you are from the northeast, were you dreaming of heading towards some warmer weather for law school?
Even if a few more law schools drop the LSAT, foregoing the exam severely limits your options only to those schools that have dispensed with the exam as an admissions requirement.
Later in your career, you will learn that having options is never a bad thing. Options give you choices. Choices, in turn, give you the freedom to pave your own destiny. Therefore, although a few law schools do not require the LSAT, you should never limit yourself just to those schools. Create options for yourself. You may be happy you did. In some cases, you may even need them.
5) You Can Still Get Admitted to Law School with a Bad LSAT Score
Thankfully, if you take our advice and take the LSAT but get a bad score, the world is not over. As Elie Mystal recently wrote on Above the Law, “law school is ALREADY the easiest professional school to get into.” Indeed, there are many law schools that accept average and below-average LSAT scores, especially if you have a reasonably good GPA. So if your life’s dream is to be a lawyer (despite the bad LSAT score), you will still have options for law school. Further, if you really stink up the place and bomb the exam, you will – as we all know – have options at schools that don’t require the LSAT for admission. Thus, there is nothing to lose by taking the LSAT.
6) The Trend Towards Dropping the LSAT May Reverse
Just like dropping the LSAT may signal a business decision by law schools to increase enrollment, the opposite may hold true when the economy inevitably rebounds, and law school admission numbers ultimately increase. Trends are cyclical. If and when this occurs, law schools may need to control their enrollment and re-introduce barriers (such as the LSAT) that some of them are now removing. Thus, you should not assume this trend is permanent, or that it may not reverse.
The LSAT may send many students running for the hills. Although a new trend may be forming among law schools who are dropping the LSAT as an admissions requirement, students should continue to take the LSAT. Taking the exam provides a huge upside and little, if any, downside. If you perform well on the exam, you have a great indication that you will likewise perform well in law school, and you will have the credentials to get admitted to a top law school. On the other hand, if you do not perform well on the LSAT, you can still get into law school or try your chances (and rely on your GPA) at a law school that doesn’t require an LSAT score.