Law grads want stricter admission standards

By Tyler Roberts

Nearly two-thirds of recent law school graduates believe that law schools should raise their admissions standards.

But, some of these grads may very well have been admitted under the academic standards they want tightened.

This surprising statistic comes from a recent survey conducted by Kaplan Bar Review. The survey also indicated that law school graduates feel underwater in debt and are split on the merits of online learning.

Over the past several years, law schools experienced saw smaller applicant pools and falling enrollment. To fill classroom seats, many law schools admitted students with lower LSAT scores and GPAs. Lowering academic standards generally raised overall enrollment rates, bar passage rates also declined.

Some argue that weakened admissions standards were to blame for falling bar passage rates, and that the only solution is to raise admissions standards for new students.

“There’s a certain irony to our survey results,” said Tammi Rice, vice president, Kaplan Bar Review. “On one hand, law school graduates recognize that perhaps getting into law school has become easier than in previous years, but on the other hand, though they may not realize it, these lower academic standards might have played a role in why they got in.”

In the past year, the number of prospective students taking the LSAT has increased. With more applicants to choose from, law schools could become more selective.

“This is a trend we plan to continue watching,” Rice said.

The Kaplan survey also asked law school graduates about the debt they carried. Of those with lingering student debt, 42 percent said that the debt was manageable, compared with 58 percent who said it was unmanageable. Half of those surveyed said they were satisfied with the amount of financial aid they received from their law schools.

“Student debt continues to understandably be a concern for law school students,” Rice said. “We encourage all prospective students to be as thoughtful as possible when thinking about how to finance their legal education.”

Online learning

Law school graduates responding to the Kaplan survey were split when it came to the idea of expanding the number of permitted credit hours for law school courses taught online.

The American Bar Association has capped the number of online credit hours a student can apply towards graduation at 15. This number was increased from 12 hours in 2014. 

More law schools are looking for flexible options to attract more students, and 50 percent of law school graduates are against the idea of increasing the number of ABA-approved online credit hours.

The Kaplan Bar Review survey includes responses from 346 law school graduates from the class of 2016. The survey was conducted by email in February 2017.