Just when you thought the coronavirus outbreak couldn’t possibly change the law school landscape in any other way, we have news that could possibly flip the entire admissions game on its head. A top law school has announced it will be forgoing both the LSAT and the GRE for students applying during these uncertain times.
Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, currently ranked #24 by U.S. News, recently decided that due to cancellation of the March administration of the LSAT exam, the test typically required for entry to law school, the school would be exploring a completely different admissions avenue. “The best test to determine whether you are going to be a great law student is whether you are a great law student,” said Dean Douglas Sylvester. Here’s more information from ASU Law’s announcement:
These applicants will be considered for admission into the Juris Doctor program as well as ASU Law’s innovative Master of Legal Studies Honors (MLSH) Program, which is a conditional admission program that provides students an opportunity to gain entry to the Juris Doctor program through outstanding classroom performance.
“We have always been committed to removing barriers to a legal education, and this is especially important right now,” said ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester. “There are a lot of talented law school prospects who either don’t have access to the LSAT at the moment or don’t do their best work on standardized tests. We want to open doors, not close them, and give these students an opportunity to pursue an education at a top-ranked law school.”
Despite the fact that both the LSAT and the GRE have moved to an online setting due COVID-19, which would allow most prospective students to access either exam, Arizona State’s new rules will allow students who have applied without taking the LSAT or the GRE to use the first semester of their 1L year as their admissions test.
But what happens if this “one-semester tryout” doesn’t go so well? Would a student in the J.D. program then be transferred into the school’s MLSH program?
ASU Law’s MLSH program was created to give students who were not offered a spot in the JD class a chance to prove that they can succeed in law school. MLSH students take the same classes as JD students in the fall semester. If they can place in the top half of their class, MLSH students can then enroll in the JD program in the spring. Students who fall short of the GPA requirement can continue to earn a degree in the Master of Legal Studies program with the completion of one additional semester of study.
It’s worth noting that another local law school, the University of Arizona, has been forced to cut salaries for faculty and staff due to the coronavirus crisis, with millions of dollars in tuition money expected to be lost. ASU’s new program was announced around the same time as Arizona Law’s salary cuts.
No matter how this course of study works out, ASU Law’s plan is enough to raise one’s brow. If the school is truly attempting to remove barriers to legal education, that’s one thing. It would certainly be interesting if other highly ranked law schools decided to do away with the LSAT and GRE for admissions purposes. But if this is just another cash grab during the pandemic, that’s something else entirely.
As pandemic creates admissions barriers, ASU Law opens its doors even wider [ASU Law]
ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College Of Law Accepting Students Without LSAT, GRE Exams [KJZZ]
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.
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