UPDATE: Since this blog was originally published, the ABA has decided to eliminate LSAT exemptions, based in part on the fact that "the playing field wasn't even for schools that aren't part of a larger university," according to the ABA's managing director for accreditation and legal education, Barry Currier. For schools that currently offer such exemptions, those will remain in effect through the 2016-17 school year.
Recently, the State University of New York-Buffalo Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law announced that the LSAT will “no longer be required” for their applicants (at which point many students added SUNY Buffalo and Iowa to their lists of prospective law schools). This change does not, however, mean that all applicants will be exempt; the exception applies to a relatively small number of applicants.
Under ABA accreditation rules the two schools are allowed to waive the LSAT requirement for no more than 10% of their incoming classes. Further, the exception can only be made for students who go to the same university that oversees the law school. Beyond that, such applicants must have at least a 3.5 GPA or be in the top 10 percent of their class, and scored highly on another standardized test such as the SAT, ACT, GMAT, or GRE.
So, the SUNY Buffalo and Iowa announcements are potentially good news for those of you who don’t want to take the LSAT, attend one of those schools as undergrads, and wish to remain at your institution for law school…and are honor students who have a good score on a different standardized test. For most law school applicants, though, the LSAT will still be required.
Beyond the fact that these exceptions have no bearing on most law school candidates' applications, those are not the first two schools to waive the LSAT requirement for some of their applicants. Before SUNY and Iowa, there were the University of Alabama School of Law, the University of Michigan School of Law, and the University of Illinois School of Law, all of which currently waive the LSAT requirement for honors students from their own undergraduate institutions.
In sum, the announcements by SUNY and Iowa garnered some attention but may not be quite as newsworthy as they initially seemed. The waivers apply to no more than 10 percent of each class, and even before the recent announcements there were already several schools waiving the LSAT requirement for some of their applicants. This is good news for honors students looking to go to law school at the same institution where they earn their undergraduate degree, bur for the vast majority of applicants, these exceptions will have no effect on the standard LSAT requirement.
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