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As pandemic creates admissions barriers, ASU Law opens its doors even wider

students having a discussion in a law library

Michael Goodman, MLS and JD candidate set to graduate in May, chats with students during an ASU Law International Rule of Law and Security event in October 2019.

April 22, 2020

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that ASU Law is no longer accepting JD and MLS-H applications without an LSAT score. Candidates who meet certain criteria may apply to the JD program without taking the LSAT through the ASU Achievement Program:

COVID-19 has drastically altered all elements of life, and that includes law school admissions. The pandemic led to the cancellation of the March and April Law School Admission Test (LSAT), leaving 20,000 registered test-takers and law schools throughout the country without a critical piece of admissions criteria.

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University adapted to the LSAT spring cancellations by announcing that it would accept fall 2020 applicants who have taken the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) — or no standardized test at all.

These applicants were considered for admission into the Juris Doctor program as well as ASU Law’s innovative Master of Legal Studies Honors (MLS-H) Program, which is a conditional admission program that provides students an opportunity to gain entry to the Juris Doctor program through outstanding classroom performance. For fall 2021 admission, ASU Law is again requiring that JD and MLS-H applicants complete and submit their LSAT score. Candidates who meet certain criteria may apply to the JD program without taking the LSAT through the ASU Achievement Program:

“We have always been committed to removing barriers to a legal education, and this is especially important right now,” said ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester this past spring. “There are a lot of talented law school prospects who either don’t have access to the LSAT at the moment or don’t do their best work on standardized tests. We want to open doors, not close them, and give these students an opportunity to pursue an education at a top-ranked law school.”

ASU Law’s MLS-H program was created to give students who were not offered a spot in the JD class a chance to prove that they can succeed in law school. MLS-H students take the same classes as JD students in the fall semester. If they can place in the top half of their class, MLS-H students can then enroll in the JD program in the spring. Students who fall short of the GPA requirement can continue to earn a degree in the Master of Legal Studies program with the completion of one additional semester of study. The Master of Legal Studies degree is designed specifically for non-lawyer professionals who want to advance their careers through a greater understanding of legal principles.

portrait of ASU Law student of Nabeal Sunna

Nabeal Sunna was initially admitted to the Master of Legal Studies Honors Program and is now a second year JD candidate at ASU Law.

 “There are plenty of reasons why a prospective student may not be offered admission to a particular school. Many of us have that one semester in college where things just didn't go as planned, or maybe we weren't 100% on LSAT day,” said Nabeal Sunna, second year JD candidate at ASU Law. “The MLS-H program gave me a chance to prove that I was better than my transcript and LSAT score. Instead of spending months re-taking the LSAT and going through the admissions process again, the MLS-H program allowed me a faster path to graduation.”

The American Bar Association (ABA) requires ABA-accredited law schools to use an admissions test, and the LSAT has long been the standard. More recently, law schools have used the GRE to satisfy the “valid and reliable” test requirement. But nothing shows you will succeed in law school more than success in law school. The MLS-H is a much clearer indication that a candidate will succeed than any standardized test, including the LSAT, and it does not carry some of the complicated social history generally attributed to standardized tests.

The spring rule changes at ASU Law — which was recently named the No. 24 law school by U.S. News and World Report  also allowed for students to apply without any standardized exam, with a one-semester tryout serving as the ABA-required test.

“In those cases, we will be looking for students with high grade-point averages, letting their undergraduate success demonstrate their academic abilities,” said Andrew Jaynes, ASU Law’s assistant dean of admissions and financial aid. “We know there are many outstanding students who will excel in their law studies but don’t perform well on standardized tests. We want to give them a chance, and our MLS-H program is that opportunity.”

Students who applied with the GRE or no standardized test were still required to register with and apply through the Law School Admission Council. ASU Law waived its application fee, and applicants can email to request a Credential Assembly Service fee waiver (valued at $45) to apply.

In addition, ASU Law provides every admitted student a scholarship and $500 travel reimbursement to visit the law school.

“We offer an elite legal education, but we are an inclusive law school,” Sylvester said. “No matter what’s happening in the world, bright minds and hard workers will always be welcome at ASU Law.”

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