New Study Argues that LSAT Limits Black Student Enrollment in Law School

The use of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is effectively limiting the enrollment of Black students at law schools, a new study found. A recently published study in the Florida International University Law Review titled “The Marginalization of Black Aspiring Lawyers,” found that law schools offered 1,000 admissions to approximately 1,960 Black applicants during the 2016-2017 admissions cycle, compared to 1,204 admission offers to white applicants. It noted that 49 percent of Black school applicants were not admitted to any law school during that admissions cycle, and was reportedly “the highest shut-out rate among all racial and ethnic groups.”

“This paper argues that Black people who aspire to be lawyers endure marginalized existences, which span the law school admission process through the matriculation process and into the law school classroom,” wrote Aaron N. Taylor, the executive director of AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence, who conducted the study. “The manner in which the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) drives the vetting of law school applications ensures that Black applicants face steep disadvantages in gaining admission.”

Taylor said Black, white, and Asian test takers in the study all averaged a 142 LSAT score. It also found that, despite scoring between 135 and 149 in the LSAT, 55 percent of Black applicants do not receive an admissions offer compared to 39 percent of white applicants. "The fundamental goals of legal education are longer term; but the LSAT does not predict one’s chances of attaining these goals...well enough to be the primary admission criterion," Taylor wrote.

LSAT scores also affect scholarship awards. The study found that Black law school admits are less likely to receive non-need-based aid than any other race. Taylor questioned the value of the LSAT and noted that multiple studies have found the test does not predict whether someone will pass the bar exam. "For example, Texas Tech found that the LSAT explained a noteworthy, but limited, 13 percent of the variance in bar exam scores of its law graduates," Taylor wrote. "The University of Cincinnati found that, among its law graduates, the 'LSAT score does not correlate with Ohio bar exam performance.' Two professors from the University of California, Berkeley, found that the LSAT had very weak (or no) value in predicting lawyering skills among its law graduates."

“Unfortunately, for many Black applicants who do receive offers of admission, the marginalization process continues. They are often required to pay higher proportions of their law school’s ‘sticker price’ than other students,” Taylor wrote. “They are also disproportionately funneled into schools with the least favorable outcomes. Lastly, they are exposed to a curriculum that is presented in a way that alienates Black students and other students from underrepresented backgrounds.”

Earlier this month, the Department of Education (DOE) Civil Rights Division ordered a medical school to stop considering race in its admission process. The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center agreed to update its admissions process and advise the admissions committee to stop considering race or national origin when considering an applicant, The Wall Street Journal first reported.

The agreement was made in February after an investigation was made over a complaint filed in 2005 by the Center for Equal Opportunity against Texas Tech. The Department of Education Civil Rights Division previously told The North Star the university has until September 1 to remove materials referencing race and national origin as admissions factors from its website.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.