A surprising result came out of the recent conference on diversity in law schools and the bar, hosted by the University of Virginia School of Law:
Eliminating the LSAT would do nothing to boost diversity in Americas law schools.
I call the result surprising because the primary criticism of those screaming for eliminating the LSAT is that it allegedly serves as a barrier to minority law school candidates.
According to University of Virginia law professor Alex Johnson, the fact that the median LSAT scores of African-American and Hispanic students are lower than the median scores for white students is not something unique to the LSAT:
There is no power test where the differential doesn’t appear, said Johnson.
Because of this fact, it is unlikely that the LSAT is manufacturing the disparity through some bias in the test itself, as many anti-test propagandists allege.
Johnson was much more concerned about the bias that would result from eliminating the LSAT. Without an objective measuring stick, schools may rely entirely on subjective factors- like whether your last name is Bush, how much money your family has donated, or whether you went to a top-ten undergraduate college- that could create extreme injustices in law school admission and harm diversity.
At least today the LSAT allows a student with a good score to say, I can compete, no matter what I majored in, no matter what school I went to, no matter what background I have It levels the playing field and at least gives you an opportunity.
UVA Professor and former chair of the LSAC Dan Ortiz agreed that, although the LSAT can be overemphasized and abused by law schools, eliminating the exam would probably not boost diversity in law schools.
Of course, none of this should be news. Most Americans have no trouble at all coming to the common sense conclusion that giving all students a single objective test is a fairer way to compare different candidates than using subjective criteria.
But professors often check their common sense at the campus gates. That’s why it was so refreshing- and shocking- to hear the comments coming out of the University of Virginia conference.
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