Law school deans from all over the country have written an open letter to the Law School Admissions Council, expressing support for the University of Arizona, which recently began accepting law students based upon GRE scores rather than LSAT scores.

The row began earlier this spring, when Arizona made the decision to give applicants the option of taking the GRE instead of the LSAT, which is administered by the Law School Admissions Council. Upon hearing of Arizona’s plan, the Council warned Arizona in April that the school could be expelled from the Council’s network of law schools.

On Wednesday, May 4, nearly 150 deans of law schools all over the country (including those of Harvard and Yale) wrote a letter to Council president Daniel Bernstine, supporting Arizona’s “experiment” with admissions criteria, and expressing “great concern over LSAC’s threat to expel the University of Arizona Law School.”

Perhaps more noteworthy, however, the deans directly asked the LSAC Board of Trustees to modify the provision of its Bylaws that requires substantially all of a law school’s applicants to take the LSAT. The deans expressed their belief that, “The rule should be changed to allow experimentation with alternative tests.”

Above the Law points out that the deans’ letter may be prompted as much by concerns about sharp decreases in enrollment as about a true embrace of “experimentation” in law school admissions. That is no doubt true to an extent. It has been widely reported that law school applications have fallen off a cliff in recent years.

But Dean David Yellen of Loyola Chicago also points out that LSAC’s position may run afoul of antitrust law.

Whether this dispute is easily resolved or whether it portends the beginning of a larger struggle, time will tell. But the simple fact that the deans of so many law schools have expressed support for the notion that schools should look beyond the LSAT may be a sign of long term trouble for the LSAC and the test.

New York Times coverage here.

Reporting from KJZZ (the NPR member station in Phoenix) is here.