Is the LSAT Required for Law School?

You’re thinking about going to law school? Great! So, how do you do it? You compile your undergraduate transcripts, get letters of recommendation, write a personal statement, and of course, prep for and take the LSAT – the Law School Admission Test. It’s as simple as that, right? Well, the tried-and-true process that law schools have been using for decades now might be changing thanks to the American Bar Association, known by attorneys everywhere as the ABA.

The ABA determines the rules that law schools must follow when it comes to operating a law school and ensuring quality legal education is provided. They determine everything from what type of curriculum schools need to provide, how many credit hours students need to graduate, and what law schools need to do to ensure their students can handle the challenges of law school. The rules make sure law schools can’t accept and take money from students who won’t be successful in law school and can’t pass the bar exam.

Up until now, law schools were required by the ABA to use an admissions test as part of the application process, and specifically, it had to be the LSAT. If a school wanted to use a test other than the LSAT, they had to conduct their own validity study to prove that another test was just as good as the LSAT. In the past year, about 15 or so law schools have done that with the GRE.

Last week, the ABA voted to change the rule. In the future, law schools will no longer be required to use an admissions test, but if they do use one, they can decide to use whatever test they want. This new rule doesn’t go into place immediately. There are still more steps before full ABA implementation.

Should I Take the LSAT?

If you’re applying to law school as part of the next application cycle, virtually all law schools you apply to will continue to require you to submit an LSAT score. If you’re applying in Fall 2019 or beyond, this might be a little different.
So, does this mean the end of the LSAT as we know it? Don’t count on it. Here’s why:

You’ll probably still have to take a test to get into law school. First of all, while the ABA is allowing law schools to technically become test optional, they are also writing a new interpretation of the rule that says if the school chooses to not use a test – and then admit students who can’t succeed in law school – they risk losing their ABA accreditation. Translation: the school might be forced to shut down.

Remember, prior to applying, law schools don’t require you to take any particular courses (like medical schools do), or have any specific work experience (like business schools do) or even have a particular major (like graduate schools do). An admissions test holds all applicants to one standard regardless of their background, giving law schools confidence that you’ll be able to handle the rigors associated with going for your JD.

Law schools will probably still put a lot of weight on your test score.

Because students apply from such varied backgrounds, from all over the country and all over the world, an admissions test score is the “common measuring stick” by which law schools can objectively compare everybody. This is actually great news for you, as it always has been. This allows you to be noticed by schools that might not be familiar with your college, your major, or just “you” in general.

Take Harvard Law School as an example. For their class of 2020, they received over 5,700 applications and made 900 offers. Selecting the < 20% who get offers is not easy. Having a test score at or above the median test scores for past students at the school will help get you noticed and get you in. Law schools will want that piece of information on you. For the record, the LSAT is also one of the most important factors in determining highly-coveted scholarship monies.

More law schools may begin accepting other standardized tests like the GRE… but you should probably still take the LSAT.

While the LSAT was specifically created for law schools to evaluate the critical thinking skills law students need, other standardized tests may do it too. The first schools which have taken GRE scores from applicants say those students are doing just fine. We may see more law schools allowing students to submit GRE scores or even GMAT scores in lieu of LSAT scores. You’ll be able to pick the test you take. That’s great news, especially for those considering joint degrees.

But keep in mind, as of now, if you take more than one test, you can’t pick and choose which test scores to send to which schools. Once you take the LSAT once, that score goes to every law school you apply to, even if you also take the GRE. Because of that, until we see mass adoption of the GRE (or some other test) as an alternative to the LSAT, you’ll probably have to take the LSAT to apply to at least one – likely many – of your target schools. Since all law schools will see that score, prep for and rock the LSAT, leaving no doubt to law school admission committees that you are a must-have.

The Takeaway

  • If you’re applying to law school within the next year, you’re almost certainly going to need to take and do well on the LSAT. With the number of applicants up nearly 9 percent this cycle, competition is heating up.
  • If you’re applying to law school in 2019 or beyond, you may have choices as to which admission test you can take, but you’ll probably still need to take a test, and you should probably take the LSAT…unless every school you’re applying to accepts the GRE.