The changes will take place in mid-2018 and are intended to provide a more flexible testing schedule to benefit prospective law students, who will have more options if they have a conflict with a particular test date, and law schools, whose application cycles have shifted in recent years.
Dean Susan Krinsky, chairwoman of LSAC’s board of trustees, said the additional dates are “an important part of LSAC’s continuing efforts to reduce barriers to entry into legal education.”
Alexis Archbold, assistant dean at the University of Toronto faculty of law, says while the university is supportive of any changes that will reduce barriers that limit the ability of underrepresented students’ access to legal education, “in this case, we will be curious to see whether simply increasing the number of testing dates will in fact achieve that goal, and how LSAC is planning to measure it.”
The LSAC has announced a host of test-related initiatives over the last few months, including no more limitations on the number of times a prospective law student can take the LSAT in a two-year period, a pilot of a digital LSAT as part of LSAC’s research into student-friendly alternative testing models and a partnership with Khan Academy to develop interactive online materials for the test, and making personalized practice free for everyone.
The partnership, announced in February, is meant to “level the playing field” said Khan Academy founder and CEO Sal Khan in a news release.
“The idea of a Khan Academy prep program will be welcome and no doubt enable some students to avoid the high cost of LSAT Prep courses,” says Lorne Sossin, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.
He notes that Osgoode offers an Access to Law & Learning program that includes a free
LSAT prep course and also gives participants exposure to things such as “the nature and dynamics of law school, legal career options and how to overcome cost barriers to a great legal education.”
“We've experienced unprecedented demand for the program and have recently expanded it with the help of a sponsorship from the law firm of Borden Ladner Gervais,” says Sossin.
The increase in testing dates comes at a time when some in the legal profession are questioning the value of the LSAT, arguing it is unfair to racialized people and stands in the way of the legal profession becoming more diverse and inclusive.
In March, Harvard Law announced starting in the fall of this year they will accept the Graduate Record Examination as well as the LSAT for admission. The GRE is a test designed for the majority of American master’s programs.
“The LSAC is trying to be more responsive to the flexibility sought by potential law students — and this is also, in part, a reaction to the move by some U.S. law schools to consider the GRE as equivalent to the LSAT for admission purposes,” says Sossin.
As Legal Feeds reported in March, Canadian law schools are likely to keep the LSAT requirement for admissions, Harvard’s move to drop it notwithstanding. All Canadian law schools currently require the LSAT, with the exception of Quebec as the test is only available in English.
Despite criticism and Harvard’s move, Krinsky said in the release that the LSAT is “the most valid, reliable and widely used test in law school admissions.” She called it “the best test for predicting success in law school,” and that’s why the LSAC will “continue to look for innovative ways to enhance access and diversity in legal education, while ensuring the quality of both the LSAT and all the services we offer.”
Sossin says hopefully these changes and others that may come to modernize the LSAT will “help ensure a more diverse, inclusive and highly qualified group of candidates can enter the pool for legal education.”