“A lot of undergraduates are unaware that many law schools, such as ours, are really looking for people of very diverse backgrounds. We’re looking for artists and chemists and undergraduate engineering majors. We’re not looking for people who have the more traditional backgrounds,” explained Avi Soifer, Dean of the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, after a Sept. 14 that the law school would begin accepting the Graduate Record Examinations in lieu of the Law School Admission Test on a one-year trial basis.
Richardson Law joined Harvard, Georgetown, Arizona, and Northwestern as the fifth law school in the country to change its application process in this way, stimulating discussion among the University’s community of pre-law students.
Ramzie Fathy ‘20, editor-in-chief of the Princeton Law Review, praised the move to accept the GRE, arguing that the strategy these law schools are employing “is effective in creating a more open and available application process for applicants who come from an analytical background rather than the traditional humanities and social sciences [majors who] dominate the legal field right now.”
“I think more students will be willing to experiment with law,” Fathy added, explaining that the decision to accept the GRE could have far-reaching implications. The more students are willing to experiment with law, the more the University will see “a surge in student involvement with law-related activities such as the Princeton Law Review and the Princeton Pre-Law Society,” he said.
While the step was regarded as a move in the right direction by Katja Stroke-Adolphe ‘20, the pre-law student maintained that law schools could be doing more to open their doors to a broader field of candidates.
“Until law schools begin placing less weight on GPA, or at least focus more on the specific classes and backgrounds of applicants, it will be difficult for many science and engineering [students] to move towards law, because the grades are generally lower,” asserted Stroke-Adolphe. More importantly, for her, “the cost of law school is still the largest impediment for people who are not completely sold on law,” she said.
William S. Richardson School of Law’s decision to begin accepting the GRE was not motivated exclusively by its desire to cast a wider net in its recruitment efforts. After all, as Dean Soifer explained, the Honolulu-based school was not as badly hit by the decline in applications to law schools as other law schools were.
"It wasn’t for us a matter of desperation or even something we felt we had to do,” said Soifer. “[We began to consider accepting the GRE because] we thought it was a good idea to do it, which is why we were in the initial group of pioneers and why we are moving forward.”
According to Soifer, the other two pioneers in testing the reliability of the GRE were the University of Arizona and Wake Forest University School of Law.
Thus, in cooperation with Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service, the company which owns and administers the GRE, Richardson Law created a process whereby current students and recent graduates would take the GRE and the scores they received would be compared to what they had received on the LSAT. This was done to see whether the GRE could be as good of a predictor of law school grades as the LSAT.
“When the statisticians, the psychometricians got through, they said yes, the GRE would work for [Richardson Law just] as well,” Soifer explained.
Despite initial reluctance considering the American Bar Association’s slow response to the GRE trend amongst law schools, Richardson Law was able to move forward after receiving additional support from schools like Harvard, Georgetown, and Northwestern, which conducted studies of their own and reached similar conclusions.
The University’s Career Services has been watching the situation closely ever since it became clear that a growing number of schools will now be accepting the GRE. Evangeline Kubu, interim director of Career Services, emphasized that the career advising team provides individual attention to each student considering a law career.
Those with an interest in law school are directed to any member of the career advising team, she explained. Students who are already immersed in the application process for law school are directed to the University’s pre-law adviser, Karen Graziano, who helps students with important parts of the application such as the personal statement.
When asked what advice Career Services is currently giving its students in regards to the GRE, Kubu responded by saying that “very few law schools are taking the GRE so what we would encourage students to do is to take the LSAT because that is going to be the primary way law schools are assessing candidates.”
However, this is not the only resource Career Services offers for pre-law students.
According to Kubu, “It’s really important that students connect and have an opportunity to speak one on one with the direct admissions representatives from the schools they are interested in and we try to offer students that opportunity.” A recent example is yesterday’s J.D. admissions at Career Services hosted by a Harvard law school representative.
The American Bar Association (ABA) is slated to take up the issue of law schools accepting the GRE in November 2017, according to a circulated by Barry Currier, the ABA’s Managing Director of Accreditation & Legal Education. Despite little guidance from the ABA thus far, a Kaplan Test Prep Survey that of the 128 law schools who participated, 25 percent said that accepting the GRE is an admissions policy they plan to implement.
Pre-law student Stroke-Adolphe also commented on the idea that the current presidential administration has had an effect on the number of students interested in a legal career.
“The current administration has definitely had an impact on my interest in law. Personally, I have had a passion for law for some time, but the current administration has made it clear to me that my life has to be one devoted to fighting injustice day by day,” she said.
“I imagine that many others have been awoken to the need to take action, and have seen the effectiveness lawyers can have in doing so,” explained Stroke-Adolphe. For her, it would be truly fantastic “if accepting the GRE helps encourage those people to go to law school.”