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Evolution of the LSAT: Pursuit of Accessibility in Legal Education

Kennedy Kibler

Edited by Ishika Bhatia, Jia Lin, and Vedanth Ramabhadran


Students aspiring to attend law school are in for a big transition: the removal of the Analytical Reasoning (also known as “logic games”) section on the Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT, and it's been a long time coming. At the heart of this massive change is Angelo Binno, an advocate for the rights of visually impaired students, who argues that “logic games” are discriminatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The change in the makeup of the LSAT marks a pivotal moment in the history of legal education, propelled by the pursuit of inclusivity and accessibility; moreover, there are diverse perspectives on what this means for this new era of law school admissions and aspiring lawyers.

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a standardized exam used by nearly all U.S. law schools in the admissions process. Currently, the test is composed of three scored sections and one unscored “experimental” section. Out of the three scored sections, there is one section of Reading Comprehension, one section of Analytical Reasoning (“logic games”), and one section of  Logical Reasoning. As a result of the Binno lawsuit, the exam will transition into two Logical Reasoning sections and one Reading Comprehension section, plus an unscored “experimental” section of either one of these beginning in August 2024. [1]

In 2011 Angelo Binno, a legally blind individual, filed a lawsuit against the American Bar Association (ABA) alleging that the “logic games” section of the exam violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination in any place of public accommodations. [2] This section of the LSAT generally prompts test-takers to draw a rough diagram to visualize how the “entities” listed in the prompt relate to one another. Because logic games require test-takers to utilize skills involving “spatial reasoning and diagramming visual information,” Binno argues that it is discriminatory towards blind individuals who are unable to draw the diagrams. [3] Further, although the directions state that it may be merely “useful” to draw the diagram, The Princeton Review points out how much of an understatement this is. Diagramming is essential to success on this portion of the exam. [3]  However, the case of Binno v. The American Bar Association was dismissed due to a lack of standing to sue the ABA because “his injury was not caused by the ABA and because it is unlikely that his injury would be redressed by a favorable decision against the ABA.” [4] Essentially, Binno filed suit against the wrong entity, as the LSAT is written and administered by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). 

Thus, in 2017, Binno filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan involving similar allegations, but against LSAC this time. [5] The lawsuit sought a permanent injunction ordering the LSAC to exempt Binno and other test-takers in similar vision situations from the LSAT’s Analytical Reasoning section. [6] A problem arises with waiving the test though– this may be considered an unfair advantage, even to others with disabilities who could not get their test waived. [7] Binno was joined by plaintiff Shelesha Taylor, who was also a visually impaired law school applicant. [8] Ultimately, the plaintiffs and the Law School Admission Council reached a settlement in 2019, deciding to cooperatively work on access to legal education and identify additional accommodations that students like themselves can use if they decide to take the LSAT again. Further, LSAC agreed to continue working over the next four years on research and development into alternative ways to assess analytical reasoning skills. [9] This research, testing, and analysis aims to improve the test experience for all test takers. [8] LSAC stated its mission to “expand access to justice by helping to create a legal profession that truly reflects the breadth and diversity of our society.” [10] 

Despite LSAC’s commitment to providing a more inclusive test, their decision to add a second Logical Reasoning section has been met with mixed opinions. Some feel that the “logic games” component is very important to the LSAT, and even a good indicator of how one would do during their first year of law school. Some point out that logic games can be a break from the heavy reading that makes up the rest of the test and can be an easier way to rack up points. Although most believe that the change has a positive net effect, many current law students fear the transition for those preparing for the LSAT to be a difficult one, especially due to the change occurring in the middle of a standard testing cycle. For example, some students may rush to take the test before August because they feel that the Analytical Reasoning section can be the most efficient way to acquire points. [11]  The instructional designer for Kaplan’s pre-law programs, for instance, emphasizes the general trend of greater score improvement in Logic Games for many students compared to the other sections. He discusses how this will likely affect students' decision to take the exam before or after changes are made. [12] For example, students who feel that Logic Games is their most improved section might be at a disadvantage if they have not prepared enough in advance to take the June LSAT. Considering all of these students are applying together, this may create some discrepancies for this application cycle in particular. Others in the legal world, such as Yale Law School professor Taisu Zhang, feel that the logical skills tested in Analytical Reasoning are used in many parts of law. [13] On the other hand, some lawyers and aspiring attorneys rejoiced over the removal of “logic games,” claiming that the scenarios have little relevance to the real world of law. For example, Orin Kerr, a UC Berkeley law professor called logic games a “silly barrier” to admissions. [13]

In response to possible uncertainty, LSAC has provided extensive data from over 200,000 exam results to prove that the change did not have a discernible impact on overall scoring. Specifically, LSAC released a data chart with 218.243 test takers who took both the original version of the LSAT and produced a mean score of 150.82 and a median of 151, as well as the updated version which produced a mean score of 150.83 and a median of 151. [14]

In the ever-evolving landscape of legal education, the removal of the Analytical Reasoning section, or “logic games,” is monumental, catalyzed by Angelo Binno's relentless advocacy for the rights of visually impaired students. Despite symbolizing a profound commitment to leveling the playing field for all aspiring lawyers, mixed perspectives emerge regarding the implications of this change. Nevertheless, as the legal community navigates through this transition, one thing remains clear: the pursuit of fairness and opportunity lies at the core of this evolution, shaping the future of legal education for generations to come.

 

[1] Changes are coming to the LSAT in August 2024 | The Law School Admission Council, https://www.lsac.org/lsat/lsat-changes-coming-august-2024#:~:text=For%20students%20who%20plan%20to,test%20items%20for%20future%20tests (last visited Apr 3, 2024).

[3] Hal Dworkin, Testing for Total Inaccessibility in Examinations under the ADA: A Case Study of Logic Games, 2014 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1963 (2014), https://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/unilllr2014&id=1983&div=&collection=.

[5] A. B. A. Journal, After Losing LSAT Lawsuit against the ABA, Legally Blind Man Sues LSAC, ABA Journal, https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/after_losing_lsat_lawsuit_against_the_aba_legally_blind_man_sues_lsac (last visited Apr 3, 2024).

[7]Haley Moss, Extra Time Is a Virtue: How Standardized Testing Accommodations after College Throw Students with Disabilities under the Bus, 13 Alb. Gov’t L. Rev. 201 (2019), https://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/aglr13&id=209&div=&collection=.

[8]A. B. A. Journal, LSAT Will Change for All Would-Be Lawyers as a Result of Blind Man’s Lawsuit Settlement, ABA Journal, https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/lsat-will-change-for-all-would-be-lawyers-as-a-result-of-blind-mans-lawsuit-settlement (last visited Apr 3, 2024).

[9]Nyman Turkish PC, Statement on the Amicable Resolution of Binno v. LSAC Lawsuit, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/statement-on-the-amicable-resolution-of-binno-v-lsac-lawsuit-300931402.html (last visited Apr 3, 2024).

[10]LSAT to be made more accessible for visually impaired students after lawsuit, Daily Bruin, https://dailybruin.com/2019/10/23/lsat-to-be-made-more-accessible-for-visually-impaired-students-after-lawsuit/ (last visited Apr 4, 2024).

[11]A section in the LSAT will be removed beginning in August. But opinions on the change are mixed, A section in the LSAT will be removed beginning in August. But opinions on the change are mixed  - The Daily Gamecock at University of South Carolina, https://www.dailygamecock.com/article/2023/11/a-section-in-the-lsat-will-be-removed-beginning-in-august-but-opinions-on-the-change-are-mixed-news-quire (last visited Apr 3, 2024).

[12]Chris Williams, LSAC Will Eliminate Logic Games From LSAT In 2024! - Above the Law, (Oct. 18, 2023), https://abovethelaw.com/2023/10/lsac-will-eliminate-logic-games-from-lsat-in-2024/ (last visited Apr 3, 2024).

[13]Karen Sloan & Karen Sloan, LSAT’s Elimination of “logic Games” Prompts Jeers, Cheers, Reuters, Oct. 19, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/legal/litigation/lsats-elimination-logic-games-prompts-jeers-cheers-2023-10-19/ (last visited Apr 3, 2024).

[14] LSAT Eliminates “Logic Games,” Resolving 2019 Settlement - Law360, https://www.law360.com/articles/1735143/lsat-eliminates-logic-games-resolving-2019-settlement (last visited Apr 3, 2024).


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