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University part of pilot to rethink prelaw education

mbruun | Thu Jan 25, 2024

As the longtime advisor to its pre-law program, Fitchburg State University Professor Paul Weizer has seen many former students go on to successful careers in the law. He has also seen otherwise successful students struggle with the standardized test that can qualify them for law school.

This year, Weizer led the effort for Fitchburg State to join a pilot program of five institutions nationwide to try an alternative to the Law School Admission Test, better known as the LSAT.

Weizer said many institutions are rethinking standardized tests in general - Fitchburg State is one of many colleges and universities that made the SAT largely optional as part of the undergraduate admissions process, for example - and now law schools are engaging in similar discussions.

Fitchburg State is launching its pilot of LawReady this semester, in collaboration with the Law School Admission Council. The program is designed to meet students earlier in their undergraduate studies, providing a roadmap to law school readiness with academic skills development aligned with courses already taking place on campus, resources to assist navigating the pre-law process, and community support along the students’ journey to a legal education.

"Students will build a portfolio that
demonstrates they have the skills to succeed in law school and law schools will
use this information as part of their holistic admissions process," Weizer explained. "The plan for this
program is it may potentially become an alternative to the LSAT in the future."

The program is launching with four courses in Fitchburg State’s pre-law track, covering topics including argumentative writing, ethics, and the law. The pilot is being funded through an Academic Innovation Fund grant from the university.

Weizer said he hopes the LawReady program will help students who are considering law school but may not perform as well on standardized tests. “It really should level the playing field, because it may eventually take standardized testing out of the equation,” he said.

Weizer noted he has had several former students who struggled with the LSAT but later went on to successful careers as attorneys. Their journeys would have been streamlined had they been given the option of a portfolio-based assessment, he said.

Fitchburg State’s pre-law offerings include a partnership with the UMass Dartmouth School of Law, wherein students may complete their bachelor’s degrees and law degrees within six years (saving a year of undergraduate tuition and fees). Weizer is also the advisor to the university’s lauded moot court team, wherein students compete at the regional and national levels.

This release updates information shared on Jan. 23, 2024.