Law Schools Are Under Pressure From Rankings and That’s Very Bad for Blacks

Law schools are reluctant to accept applicants with low scores on the Law School Admission Test because these scores bring down a school’s median LSAT score, which is a key component used by U.S. News & World Report in ranking U.S. law schools.

There is now solid evidence that in fact law schools’ efforts to raise their median LSAT scores in an effort to boost their rankings are having a profound negative impact on black enrollments. A new study by John Nussbaumer, professor and dean at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School at Oakland University, and published in the St. John’s Law Review, provides evidence of a correlation between an increase in median LSAT scores at law schools and a decrease in African-American enrollments.

Professor Nussbaumer found that in the 2002 to 2004 period, 82 percent of the 84 law schools he studied nationwide raised their median LSAT scores by admitting students with higher scores. Of the law schools that raised their median LSAT levels, 62 percent saw a decline in African-American enrollments during the period. At the 84 law schools in the Nussbaumer study, overall enrollments increased nearly 6 percent from 2002 to 2004. But black enrollments at these schools decreased by almost 4 percent. At 18 of the law schools that raised their LSAT scores, the decline in black enrollments was greater than 15 percent.

Professor Nussbaumer concludes that while the nation’s law schools “have no racially discriminatory purpose, they remain responsible for creating a de facto and racially discriminatory quota system that effectively restricts African-American access to the legal profession.”