Law School Admission in the Time of COVID-19
One of the main purposes of the Law School Admission Council is to ease the process of applying to law school and obtaining a legal education. Like everything in our world, that process has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and our hearts go out to the individuals and communities that have been affected by this crisis. To provide additional support to candidates during this challenging time, I hosted a webinar with Andrew T. Guzman, dean of the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law; Julie Smith, assistant dean of enrollment management at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law; and Sophia Sim, associate dean for admissions and financial aid at George Washington University Law School.
Our panelists agreed that this is a time of significant upheaval in higher education, as classes quickly moved online for the spring term and uncertainty remains about the coming fall. At the same time, law schools have responded well to care for students and applicants during this time. Sim noted that schools are interacting with applicants in robust ways in a virtual setting and are still working hard to help them obtain the information they need to make their important enrollment decisions. Smith said that while applicants are wondering whether fall classes will be online or in person, schools are planning well for both — or for a combination. As Guzman noted, that’s still an open question as we see how the pandemic will evolve. He also believes that the legal profession will be critical to helping the country recover from the pandemic and stressed the important role that lawyers play as leaders in so many sectors.
The panelists also welcomed LSAT-Flex, LSAC’s new remotely proctored version of the LSAT. LSAT-Flex is being used for both the May and June test administrations so that applicants wanting to apply for this fall or get an early start on applying for next fall can continue their enrollment journeys. Whether future months’ LSAT administrations will be administered in person or via LSAT-Flex will be determined closer to those dates so that we can assess the state of the pandemic at those times. Additionally, LSAC is committed to helping applicants who lack the necessary computer resources or simply a quiet place to take the test. For more information, visit the LSAT-Flex page on our website.
Despite the challenges we’re facing, our panelists felt that this remains a good time to go to law school. As Guzman pointed out, while the benefit of delaying your legal education by a year is that you could avoid having to do some of it online, the drawback is that you could end up in a larger graduating class if many other applicants also choose to delay entering law school. That could result in more competition for jobs when you graduate. Also, pandemic-related financial challenges could reduce the scholarship money available a year from now. By starting your journey into the world of law now, you could be in a smaller graduating class and thus be better positioned in the job market. Finally, be sure to ask yourself: If I don’t go to law school now, what will I be doing for the next year instead?
One area of particular concern for the panelists was international students, who are impacted by the crisis in many ways, including from visa delays and travel restrictions. Candidates in this position should connect with the schools they’re considering to learn what steps are being taken to support international students. LSAC also stands ready to assist international students with a host of resources, all available at LSAC.org.
The overriding message of our hour-long discussion was that we’re all in this together. Personal interaction and flexibility are hallmarks of legal education, and LSAC and our member law schools are here for you if you have questions or concerns. In some ways, this is an excellent time to invest in a legal education; as Guzman noted, lawyers are always at the table when important decisions are made in our society, and many of those decisions will be coming in the worlds of medicine and public policy in the months ahead. We need more smart, ethical, talented, and diverse people at that table, and we thank our candidates, including the nearly 3,000 who tuned in for the webinar, for preparing to take that step.