TOEFL test prep guru Jon Hodge over at Strictly English sent me this question recently:
I'm writing to ask you if you can verify this claim I found on an online bulletin board:
A lot of law schools, especially the "top" ones, don't require the TOEFL even for the international students (from Europe, Asia etc.) I think they consider the LSAT score a good enough measurement for the applicant's English abilities as well.
For instance, [Columbia Law School] says
"Q: Is the TOEFL exam required?
A: No. Applicants to the J.D. program are not required to take the TOEFL examination."
The most sure thing would probably be to contact the schools directly, if the schools you're applying to are unclear about this on their website. Each school will probably have a different policy, so it'll be hard for someone to give you a clear "yes or no" answer.
Thanks for the question, Jon. Note that top LLM programs for international students do require the TOEFL, but I assume you're asking about JD programs.
It is indeed unusual for top JD programs to require the TOEFL. For example, the JD admissions pages for Harvard, Stanford, and Northwestern mention only the LSAT in their list of required tests, so by implication they do not require any additional tests like the TOEFL.
But there are exceptions. Chicago, for example, does require a TOEFL score from international JD applicants (scroll to the bottom of the link -- TOEFL or IELTS is required, with some exceptions).
So the norm does seem to be that no TOEFL is required for JD applications, but since there are exceptions, international applicants need to read the instructions for each school carefully. There isn't one rule that governs for all schools.
Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).