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MEHTA: Switch to digital LSAT will exacerbate inequities, lacks foresight

Opinion Column: Grass Roots

When Lori Laughlin became the face of a college admissions scandal in March, America felt some sense of justice. She had bribed USC recruiters $500,000 to admit her daughters into their school, outwardly committing the crime that most wealthy parents avoid by simply donating buildings and sports stadiums to their children’s institutions. 

Though Laughlin in handcuffs was an image no one thought they would — or would want to — see, it shined a light on the power that those with money hold in this country. While this was a step in the right direction, the media reporting this “big news” almost acted as a spotlight shining down on an ocean. The surface became illuminated, but still, plenty of darkness remained underneath.   

On July 15, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) administered their first-ever digital LSAT. In doing so, it put itself in the purview of a topic that, fortunately, is making its way to the forefront of political conversation in America: inequity. 

For many pre-law students planning on taking their LSATs, the switch came as a tedious and unnecessary change which would hinder their scores. For LSAT tutoring companies, this was a race to offer the best method of instructing on how to take this exam, while maximizing profits as well. 

As a matter of fact, typing “digital LSAT” into Google will lead to viewing four advertisements for four different LSAT tutoring companies as the first search results. 

Unfortunately, this switch goes beyond being merely vexing. It is unfair. The cost for the TestMasters live course is $1,650. In an education system where students are forced to pay similar amounts in application fees and are charged ridiculous interest rates on loans they spend their entire lives working to pay back, a class like this is often infeasible to purchase. 

Further, and much more pressing, is the idea that one who cannot purchase this class, which trains you to take the exam on a tablet, will essentially need a tablet to get a feel for the real exam. Thus, impoverished communities will be disproportionately affected through the LSAT going digital. 

This means potentially lower scores, fewer acceptances and less scholarship money for those who have worked the hardest and need it most, for those who cannot have mom and dad make a big donation on their behalf. 

While this issue lies beneath the surface of a broader sea of inequity, it rests within a bigger conversation regarding the legal profession. 

“Talented attorneys who graduate from lower-ranked law schools often need to either achieve extraordinary law school grades or gain several years of impressive legal work experience to convince a big law firm to hire them. In contrast, it is common for alumni of top law schools to get jobs at big law firms straight out of law school without having to work their way up from a smaller firm,” according to U.S. News.

As mentioned before, a lower LSAT score may lead to admittances from less prestigious law schools, and, as noted above, this means the switch to the digital LSAT has already put underprivileged students behind in an extremely competitive arena, one which clearly often relies on having an availability of resources at its forefront. 

Further, “several years of impressive legal work” may begin with an unpaid internship, another inequitable practice which members of disenfranchised communities may not be able to participate in. 

While John Doe is able to supplement his solid LSAT score thanks to a TestMasters class and an unpaid internship with a judge because his parents are paying for his undergraduate expenses, Jane Smith may be working full-time in addition to taking a full credit-load to cover her tuition costs because her parents simply cannot afford to. 

This problem is reminiscent of the cycle of incarceration. Difficulty getting a job as a member of a disenfranchised community may lead to resorting to illicit means to feed one’s family. These illicit means may lead to arrest, wherein being held because one cannot afford cash bail. 

Incarceration leads to no source of income during such period, to which the now record-having “convict” will find it even harder to get a job and may resort back to illicit means of earning money. 

Disenfranchised communities start off behind in this country, and, in cases like this, are only pushed further back instead of being offered means of equity. This is a rigged fight, in a rigged system, and the odds are stacked against those who need them to be in their favor the most. 

Rishi Mehta is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in   political science and English. His column, "Grass Roots," runs on   alternate Mondays.


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