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Rutgers Camden Gets Fined, Censured by ABA for LSAT Violations

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By William Peacock, Esq. on December 05, 2013 9:15 AM

The LSAT doesn't predict much, does it? We all know somebody who bombed the LSAT, then proceeded to dominate their classes after barely being let in off the wait-list. Sure, someone who scores in the 120s probably will fail miserably at law school, and at the bar exam, but can you really blame a school for looking for a different measuring stick?

Rutgers School of Law at Camden did just that, and now, it'll cost them $25,000. The school has also been publicly censured by the ABA Accreditation Committee (oh no!) and will have to place a censure notice on their website for at least a year (egad!).

Should've Sought a Variance

Rutgers-Camden's big mistake, per the ABA Accreditation Committee's report, was in not seeking a variance first. Standard 503 requires accredited schools to use the LSAT in their admissions process, unless, per Interpretation 503-1, a school obtains a variance after proving the veracity of an alternative exam.

Of course, chicken or egg, right? How does a school prove the veracity of an alternative exam as a law school performance predictor unless it employs such an alternative first?

In May 2006, Rutgers-Camden began to use non-LSAT tests to round out their class. Some of the admittees were part of the JD-MBA program, while others weren't. The program was terminated in May 2012, months before the school initiated, and abandoned, an application for a variance.

Interestingly enough, after three years of letting in applicants through this alternative channel (an average of 6.7 percent of the class per year over a six-year period), an ABA Consultant on Legal Education sent a letter to all schools reminding them that a variance must be sought (with accompanying proof) before alternative tests could be used. Rutgers-Camden continued the program for three more years before applying for a variance, using data collected during the six-year program at issue.

Why it Matters

Does it? Rutgers-Camden is currently ranked #91 -- any gaming of the numbers doesn't seem to have helped much.

Nonetheless, the committee noted that the program allowed the school to let in alternative candidates without taking a hit to their LSAT percentiles, a vital factor in the US News rankings. The committee also cited the necessity of deterring other law schools from also disregarding the ABA accreditation standards.

Is this really a big deal? Are we missing something? Chime (or tweet) in @FindLawLP.

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