Following Harvard, More Law Schools Accepting GRE

Harvard Law School Library
Harvard Law School.

UPDATED: September 11, 2017 at 7:28 p.m.

Six months after Harvard Law School announced it would begin to accept the Graduate Record Examination in addition to the traditional Law School Acceptance Test, two other elite law schools have followed suit even as some question whether the two exams are in fact interchangeable.

Harvard was only the second law school in the country to begin accepting the GRE, a test traditionally taken for admission to non-professional graduate school programs. In August, Northwestern and Georgetown’s law schools announced that they would also begin to allow applicants to submit the GRE. All three schools said the move was intended to make the law school application process more accessible to a diverse group of prospective students.

“I’ve heard people chatter about this for some time now. This is sort of emerging as a more visible issue, but it’s been on the table, and I think it takes courage to break herd,” said Peter F. Lake ’81, a professor at Stetson University College of Law who specializes in higher education law. “When someone does it who’s recognized as a peer institution it does incentivize others to say ‘we can do it too.’”

Jessica L. Soban ’02, the Law School’s Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Admissions, said Harvard Law has been in contact with other law schools since announcing the policy change.

“We’ve definitely talked with law schools that have been interested in our approach, and we’ve had conversations with them about that,” she said.

In 2016, Harvard conducted a study to to determine whether the GRE served as a similar predictor of first-year law student success as the LSAT. The American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, currently requires that schools wishing to accept a test besides the LSAT must prove that the alternative test is comparably valid.

But with more schools moving to accept the GRE, the ABA is now considering a policy change that would require the ABA, not individual schools, to certify the validity of an LSAT alternative. At a public hearing in July, the ABA received statements on both sides, with some law school deans urging more flexibility in admissions and the administrators of the LSAT supporting greater ABA oversight.

In the meantime, Lake said, for some schools, the GRE’s potential to predict bar exam scores will also be a major factor in choosing whether or not to adopt these testing policies.

“I think people will be looking at that to see if the GRE is equally predictive of bar examination success as the LSAT,” Lake said. “I know people are looking for the magic bullet of improving the number of applicants and the quality of applicants, but they’re also looking for licensing outcomes.”

Beyond the GRE, the Law School has in recent years taken steps to increase its applicant pool in the face of declining law school applications nationwide, including expanding its Junior Deferral Program to all schools and conducting interviews via Skype.

—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at jamie.halper@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.

This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:

CORRECTION: September 11, 2017

A previous version of this article indicated that Harvard Law School consulted with the University of Arizona before announcing they would accept the GRE. In fact, the consultations took place after the announcement.

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