LSAT optional for J.D. hopefuls

LSAT optional for J.D. hopefuls

Youssef Rddad

Some students applying for fall 2015 admission to the University of Minnesota’s Law School may not need to take the Law School Admission Test — but there are some other steep conditions.
 
The Minnesota Advantage Program, a new University Law School admissions initiative, waives the LSAT requirement for applicants if they meet other guidelines, such as a 3.5 GPA and 85th-percentile ACT or SAT score for interested undergraduates. 
 
The school’s leaders say they hope the program will attract more applicants and alleviate the LSAT’s financial burden, which can sometimes cost thousands when accounting for prep courses.
 
Across the country, where a few schools have also begun to withdraw the LSAT as an admissions requirement, law school enrollment has plummeted. The University’s Law School has seen a similar decline with about 190 students enrolling last fall — roughly 30 students fewer than two years ago. According to the American Bar Association, almost 9,000 fewer U.S. students sought their law degree last year than in 2013.
 
“The nationwide decline has encouraged innovation, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” said Nick Wallace, director of admissions at the University’s Law School.
“There’s a lot of costs that can be incurred taking the LSAT. If law schools can reduce the cost in one aspect, it’s a step in the right direction.”
 
Wallace said the median LSAT score hasn’t changed much over the years, adding that only a small group of students would qualify to waive the test requirement because of the lofty academic cutoffs.
 
The departure from the LSAT requirements has gained momentum across law schools. Schools like the College of Law at the University of Iowa, the School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the State University of New York-Buffalo have implemented policies similar to the University’s, following an ABA decision in
January to allow schools to admit students who haven’t taken the LSAT.
 
Logan Alexander-Young, a political science junior preparing to take the LSAT next spring, said he doesn’t feel unfairly treated next to those who can waive the 
requirement.
 
“I think oftentimes the best lawyers come from a different work setting, and if [law schools] were able to see that and see the other things that make up who this person is and their ability to be a lawyer, the schools will see that,” he said.
 
The job market for law school graduates has also suffered, and the average law school student in 2012 borrowed more than $80,000 to complete school, according to an ABA report.
 
According to the Law School’s 2014-15 profile, the median starting salary for graduates working in the private sector is $89,000 per year. Public sector graduates earn a median starting salary of about $50,000.
 
Kurt Erickson, a 1984 law school alumnus and shareholder at the law firm Jackson Lewis’ office in downtown Minneapolis, said the market has always been competitive for law school graduates.
 
Erickson said five lawyers working at his firm’s office graduated from the University’s Law School.
 
“I think the market was competitive [in 1984], but if you’re trying to find a job these days in 2015, it’s even harder.”