Can we cut through the bull about why law schools are now accepting GREs for admission? The fact is that applications are falling, and law schools are desperate for hot bodies to fill their empty seats. (Law schools that now accept the GRE include Harvard, Northwestern and Georgetown, reports The National Law Journal; the first school to do so was the University of Arizona.)
Not for one minute do I buy the argument that law schools are now realizing that LSATs aren’t the end-all/be-all predictor of future success. As for the argument that allowing the GRE for law school admission will attract more hot commodities such as math and science types to apply: Puh-leeze.
If you’re a bright young thing with quantitative or tech abilities, there are less painful ways to make a decent living. As any fourth grader in New York knows, the legal profession kinda sucks. They see how hard lawyer-parents work (compared to those hedge fund parents who have more fun and make a lot more moolah). And they know it’s damn impossible to become equity partner in Big Law these days.
“The Golden Age for law schools is definitely over,” says Paul Caron, dean of Pepperdine Law School. “Harvard and the other schools that have jumped on the GRE bandwagon are undoubtedly seeking to expand their pool of potential students.”
So, you might ask, if the pool is shrinking, what do I have against using the GRE to lure a wider array of candidates, especially those smarties who never dreamed of going to law school? To me, the answer is obvious: They shouldn’t go to law school precisely because they didn’t have an inkling to go in the first place. I mean, aren’t there already enough people in the profession who lack passion for practice? Walk down the hall of any major law firm, and you find plenty of miserable, lost souls who’d rather be bricklayers or baristas.
I know because I was one of them. Like a lot of liberal arts majors, I went to law school because it seemed like such a respectable default. Even with the filter of the LSAT, there are too many of us who end up in law who have no business there. (Note to English majors: Don’t believe it when people tell you that writing well will make you a natural fit for law practice. Trust me, legal writing is a different animal.)
For all those literature, history and art majors out there, the LSAT is the only thing that offers a taste of what it means to “think like a lawyer.” I’m talking primarily about the logical reasoning sections—the stuff that few liberal arts majors encounter during four years of college. As Kellye Testy, president of the Law School Admission Council (it administers the LSAT), pointed out to NLJ’s Karen Sloan: “Analytical reasoning is 25 percent of the LSAT and zero percent of the GRE. Logical and critical reasoning skills are 50 percent of the LSAT, and zero percent of the GRE.”
If those topics sound dreary and make you want to dodge the LSATs, then maybe that should tell you something.
So here’s where I stand: Limit law school admissions to that awful, forbidding LSAT. Let there be more, not fewer, barriers to going to law school. (Perhaps include psychological testing, too?) That might sound restrictive and undemocratic, but people will be happier for it. Believe me.
Contact Vivia Chen at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @lawcareerist.