Please keep in mind that because so much is fluid right now, no one can say for certain where things will be in a few months. But schools are making plans and contingent backup plans already, and certainly expert opinions matter. Here is what we can update you all on, after speaking with a number of deans and deans of admissions (we actually even had a call with an epidemiologist today for good measure):
- By and large, faculty appear to want to return to standard grading. There's actually a poll being conducted right now on that very topic, so we will have data on this soon to report. Keep in mind that faculty play into the decision-making and governance at law schools, so this matters in respect to what will happen.
- Law schools will likely, at minimum, have an online option in the fall. This would be for students with any kind of presenting symptoms, international students, and possibly students who want to go to a certain law school but not move to a new location. This is all still in the very early stages of planning, so we can't speculate much more on it other than to say that we do think this will be a minimum for schools. For our detailed analysis of whether classes will be on-campus or online, we have podcasted (with a full transcript) about that here. I have some speculation that there is a scenario where a high-profile school or schools in a hot-spot or crowded city may just take the entire semester online for all – and that this may lead to a herd following from other schools. This is very much me speculating though; schools have several months before they have to make a decision on fall classes, and some of the deans I have spoken with are more optimistic they will be in person than I am. The epidemiologist I spoke with noted there will be roughly 7 billion people in the world who are still "immuno-naïve" to this virus, so that plays in to my less optimistic assessment. Each time we flatten the curve, we could see another spike as social distancing conditions are relaxed. Some businesses may tolerate new spikes, but I am less certain that schools will.
- Many law schools have mentioned they will have a backup professor for each class in case COVID-19 is lingering (it will be) or spikes again (also very possible) and a professor contracts the virus. It was put forth today in a faculty Zoom conference as an idea that law schools might even rely on each other for this, i.e. if you are at Princeton Law School you may end the semester with an online faculty member from Dartmouth Law School. Again, this was just an idea from one person, but such collaboration is in the realm of possibility.
Law School Admissions
- Every dean of admissions we have spoken to believes that an LSAT Flex score will be treated no differently than a regular LSAT score. To quote one admissions dean, "Until proven otherwise, we have no reason to believe that the new test scores will be anything other than valid and reliable." To quote Dave Killoran, the CEO of PowerScore, "LSAC has long proven that they are excellent at test making and the psychometrics of this exam, so there is no reason to think these scores won't be valid and reliable."
While each individual has their own unique circumstances, and we can't tell applicants what to do, if you were an April LSAT registrant, we would recommend you strongly consider taking the LSAT Flex. In other words, don't just dismiss based on internet myths that may come up. All of the above being said, we have not been able to speak to every dean of admission. Perhaps there are schools who will look less heavily at LSAT Flex scores; we just have not heard of any.
- We believe, purely based on instinct, that LSAC would prefer the June, July, and August LSAT administrations to be in-person but socially distanced (open desks between test-takers) and in smaller real estate venues. If true, they will need to secure many more small test centers, but this is our instinct. To be clear, we have not heard this one way or the other from LSAC.
- Our firm's admissions instincts are that the new LSAT Flex scores may slow waitlist movement down at schools above a 165 median LSAT (where there is roughly a 10% increase in scores so far this cycle) and/or schools who have so far had a strong admissions cycle on their end. For schools below a 165 LSAT and whose applicant pool is down, we suspect there to be waitlist movement sooner rather than later. So we could see a good deal of waitlist activity in the coming weeks after seat deposit deadlines.
We will continue to provide updates throughout the summer. For breaking news, we try to immediately post something on our Twitter account.
One personal note. We all, at times, have felt the stress from the uncertainty and isolation due to the circumstances we are in. I can assure you you are not alone there. This includes law faculty, staff, students... and I could give scores of examples of me not being as calm and collected as I should be or normally am. If something feels overwhelming, I would encourage you to speak to an expert or trusted family member or friend. Reach out for help. The worst thing any of us can do is bottle up concerns right now; they have a way of building momentum when we do. To end on an inspiring quote: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher