Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

LSAT Found in Contempt for Disability Accommodations

call to actionThe bad news keeps piling up for the Law School Admission Council, which administers the LSAT.

In March, a federal judge held the LSAC in contempt of court for not complying with a 2014 consent order regarding disability accommodations for LSAT takers.

The 2014 order came in a lawsuit against the LSAC that alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That decree required the LSAC to stop “flagging” test scores of disabled test takers who needed extra time. It also mandated other changes (as recommended by a Best Practices Panel) in the way the council handles requests for accommodations.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero of San Francisco found that the LSAC viewed the prior decree “as an intrusion to be avoided rather than a challenge to be embraced,” according to the ABA Journal. He sanctioned the LSAC by extending the order an additional two years – meaning the council will remain under court scrutiny until at least 2020.

This is the latest in a long string of setbacks for the LSAC and its venerable law school admission test. Over the past two decades, the test has been blasted as biased and discriminatory. Law schools have come under fire for placing undue weight on LSAT scores, and in recent years a growing number have begun accepting GRE scores in lieu of the LSAT.

“50 Percent” Emails Sent to Disabled Applicants

Judge Spero said the LSAC had complied with some provisions of the consent decree but had violated other aspects.

One particular target of criticism was the practice of sending applicants who had requested accommodations so-called “50 percent emails,” as the LSAC called them internally. These emails gave the recipient limited options, such as accepting the accommodations as offered or waiting for a later testing date.

“While it is true that LSAC complied with other requirements, allowing such partial compliance to excuse LSAC’s violations would reduce the consent decree to merely a set of guidelines from which LSAC could choose which provisions to follow and which to disregard,” according to Spero’s order.

In a statement the LSAC expressed disappointment with the ruling and said it had already changed its procedures to address the concerns. It also pledged to “continue to work steadfastly to comply with the decree under the guidance provided in the court’s ruling.”

Mounting Criticism of LSAT

Accommodated testing has been an ongoing challenge for the LSAC. “From the thousands of requests that the Law School Admission Council receives each year, the council must determine, on a case-by-case basis, which applicants should get special accommodations, and what accommodations are appropriate,” says this source. “[T]he council has defended a number of lawsuits based on claims about how the LSAC deals with such requests.”

Here are some other controversies that have plagued the LSAC:

  • “Flagging” test scores. The LSAC has been widely rebuked for “flagging” test scores of takers who were granted accommodations. This practice, which spurred the ADA lawsuit, has ended.
  • Unfairly weighted. For years, legal educators have complained that LSAT scores are weighted too heavily in rankings of law schools, most notably in U.S. News & World Report. Critics say this makes it hard for qualified students with solid GPAs from lesser-known colleges to get into law school unless they ace the LSAT.
  • Lack of diversity. Critics say over-emphasis on the LSAT discourages students with diverse backgrounds and pushes minority applicants to lower-tier law schools.
  • GRE as admission alternative. Many law schools – led by Harvard – have begun accepting Graduate Record Examination (GRE) results as well as LSAT scores.
  • Rigged against the poor. Some contend the LSAT is rigged against the poor. They say prep classes are all but required in order to do well on certain portions of the exam – and with the average in-person course costing $1,300, some applicants are priced out of the game.

What was your experience with the LSAT and admissions process?


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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