Starting in the fall of 2017, Harvard Law School will allow applicants to submit either the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) to be considered for admission to its three-year J.D. program.
The pilot program to accept the GRE is part of a wider strategy at Harvard Law School to expand access to legal education for students in the United States and internationally. The GRE is offered frequently throughout the year and in numerous locations around the world. Many prospective law school applicants take the GRE as they consider graduate school options. The Law School’s decision to accept the GRE will alleviate the financial burden on applicants who would otherwise be required to prepare and pay for an additional test.
The change is supported by an HLS study, designed in 2016 and completed earlier this year, examining, on an anonymized basis, the GRE scores of current and former HLS students who took both the GRE and the LSAT. In accordance with American Bar Association (ABA) Standards for Legal Education, the aim of the study was to determine whether the GRE is a valid predictor of first-year academic performance in law school. The statistical study showed that the GRE is an equally valid predictor of first-year grades.
“Harvard Law School is continually working to eliminate barriers as we search for the most talented candidates for law and leadership,” said HLS Dean Martha Minow. “For many students, preparing for and taking both the GRE and the LSAT is unaffordable. All students benefit when we can diversify our community in terms of academic background, country of origin, and financial circumstances. Also, given the promise of the revolutions in biology, computer science, and engineering, law needs students with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds. For these students, international students, multidisciplinary scholars, and joint-degree students, the GRE is a familiar and accessible test, and using it is a great way to reach candidates not only for law school, but for tackling the issues and opportunities society will be facing.”
In recent years, the Law School has taken other such steps, including: conducting interviews via Skype; eliminating the requirement for a “seat deposit” for accepted students; and launching a deferred-admissions pilot program to encourage and accept applications from Harvard College juniors who commit to two years of post-collegiate work experience prior to starting law school.
Jessica Soban, associate dean for Admissions and Strategic Initiatives, said, “We believe the admissions process should be reflective of the values of the Law School more broadly, and that means experimentation and innovation. Each admissions cycle, we evaluate the changing landscape for top talent and determine how we can continue to attract the best students to the field of law.”
The ABA is currently reviewing possible changes to rules governing which tests law schools may use in making admissions decisions.
Minow said, “We look forward to working with the American Bar Association on finding the most effective ways to encourage the best students to enter the legal profession.”