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American Bar Association
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General Information

1. Law School Admission Fees.
The American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar condemns the practice of requiring persons seeking admission to a law school to pay a fee, in addition to the regular application fee, to be placed on a list of persons who will be admitted if additional places become available, commonly known as a "waiting list." (June 1997)

2. Pass/Fail Grading.
At its August, 1970 meeting the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar decided to endorse the following statement issued earlier by the Law School Admission Council on the impact of pass/fail grading by undergraduate colleges upon the law school admission process. This statement has also been endorsed by the Executive Committee of the Association of American Law Schools.

The adoption by an increasing number of colleges and universities of pass/fail or similar grading systems for some or all of their students’ work has implications for the law school admissions process. When a student with a transcript bearing such grades seeks to enter law school, law school admissions committees will be deprived of data that have served them well in the past in making the admissions decision. In the belief that college and university faculties and administrations who are considering conversion of a conventional grading system to a pass/fail or some variant system may be interested in the possible effect of such grading systems upon their graduates who seek admission to law school, the Law School Admission Council issues this statement.

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) was developed more than twenty years ago in response to an expressed need of law schools for additional data upon which to base their admissions decisions. Validity studies conducted over the years demonstrate that the LSAT score contributes significantly to the prediction of an applicant’s grades in law school and thus aids in the making of the admissions decision. These studies show that the LSAT score and the undergraduate grade-point average are the two best quantitative predictors, and that when they are used together they are better than either used separately. College grades represent both academic competence and achievement; the LSAT score largely indicates academic competence—the kind relevant to the study of law. The academic achievement of an applicant to law school indicates the extent of his preparation and motivation for the study of law. It is apparent, then, that college grades make a significant contribution to prediction of law school grades that is not supplied by the LSAT score.

Where an applicant for admission to law school submits a transcript in which all or virtually all of his grades are on pass/fail basis, and submits no other indication of his level of achievement in college, the admissions committee can make little specific use of his college work in predicting his law school grades. This means that this prediction must be based on the LSAT score, even though the committee would much prefer not to place sole reliance on the test scores in making this prediction. Even when such a transcript is supplemented by a narrative evaluation of the applicant by several of his teachers and deans, the committee can make only limited use of the college work in predicting performance in law school. Like interviews, these evaluations give the committee some help in making the admissions judgment, but they are largely helpful in deciding which risks to take and which to reject.

Where the applicant for admission to law school submits a transcript containing some conventional grades and some pass/fail grades, the admissions committee can develop a grade-point average for that portion of the student’s college work bearing the conventional grades. However, many admissions officers will not feel justified in assigning to that average the conventional weight. They may well assume that the student chose to receive a conventional grade in those courses in which he gauged his probabilities for a premium grade to be good. This indicates that his grade-point average so developed will overstate his academic competence and achievement as compared with the average of a student whose grades are all conventional. Furthermore, the committee may reasonably assume that the applicant did not make the same effort in the courses graded on a pass/fail basis as he did in those graded on the conventional basis. In short, a grade-point average based only upon the limited part of a student’s work in which conventional grades were assigned seems to overstate in a compound way the student’s general academic ability and achievement. Therefore, it is understandable that many admissions officers are already discounting such a grade-point average, and discounting it more if there is a large proportion of pass/fail grades.

The Council recognizes that the increased use of the pass/fail grading system—or some variant thereof—will mean that law school admissions committees and officers will place an increased reliance upon the LSAT score, a greater reliance than either the Council or law school admissions committee would like. The Council recognizes that there are many educational considerations to be taken into account by the faculty and administration in determining the appropriate grading system for that college or university. The Council, of course, respects the authority and judgment of the college and university faculty and administration in making that decision. The Law School Admission Council offers this statement concerning the effect of pass/fail grades upon the proper evaluation of a college graduate’s application for admission to law school only in the hope that it may be useful to college faculties and administrations in determining what grading system to use. (June 1997)

3. Timely Grading of Law School Examinations.
Law schools should adopt and maintain policies for timely grading of law school examinations. It is urged that such policies provide for completion of the grading and notification of results to the students not later than 30 days following the last examination of the term. (June 1997)

4. Law School Policy Encouraging Faculty to Engage in Reasonable Post-Examination Review With Students.
It is recommended that a law school have a policy encouraging faculty members to engage in reasonable post examination review with students, preferably individual review upon request. Absent good cause, students should also have a right reasonably to review their examination papers. This does not mean that faculty members are obligated to review examinations individually with all students in every course. A reasonable policy may take into account the workload of individual teachers, the number of examinations in the course, the academic needs of the particular students requesting review, and the availability of review in courses throughout the school. Faculty members may choose to carry out such a policy using alternative means, including engaging in individual review of examinations upon student’s request, by holding a general review concerning the examination open to all students, or by providing an outline or exemplar of good examination answers. (June 1997)

5. Period of Retention of Examination Materials.
Law schools approved by the American Bar Association should practice the policy of retaining examination booklets for a period of one year. This policy applies only if the examination booklet has not been returned to the student. (June 1997)

6. Retention of Records.
Law schools approved by the American Bar Association should retain admission, financial aid and placement records for a one-year period. (June 1997)

7. Interference in Law School Clinical Activities.
Improper attempts by persons or institutions outside law schools to interfere in the ongoing activities of law school clinical programs and courses have an adverse impact on the quality of the educational mission of affected law schools and jeopardize principles of law school self-governance, academic freedom, and ethical independence under the ABA Code of Professional Responsibility. In appropriate ways, the Council shall assist law schools in preserving the independence of law school clinical programs and courses. (June 1997)

8. Ranking of Law Schools.
No ranking of law schools is attempted or advocated by the official organizations in legal education. Qualities that make one kind of school good for one student may not be as important to another. The American Bar Association and its Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar have issued disclaimers of any law school ranking system. Prospective law students should consider a variety of factors in making their choice among schools. (June 1997)

9. Student Complaints.
Each law school approved by the American Bar Association should communicate in written form to its students the manner in which it receives and responds to student complaints. (June 1997)

10. Period of Time for Completion of Requirements to Obtain J.D. Degree.
The normal maximum period for a full-time law student to complete requirements for a J.D. degree is five years. The normal maximum completion time for a part-time law student to complete requirements for a J.D. degree is six years. (June 1997)

 

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