Law in Contemporary Society

A New Standard of Admissions for Law Schools

-- By AlexHu - 19 May 2009

Law school admissions are a joke

Everyone knows the joke: two numbers measure one’s law school eligibility. Law schools claim that this process is justified because quantitatively, only those who are the “most qualified” are admitted. This supposedly results in a better learning environment and allows law schools to dedicate their resources to training the “best” and “brightest” minds. However, it is easy to realize that this justification is flawed. While the LSAT may be an appropriate exercise for quantifying logic game and speed reading aptitudes, asserting that those who correctly answer 97 questions out of 102 are “better” and “brighter” than those who only correctly answer 90 is both statistically questionable and patently untrue.

Even worse, the entire premise—that some combination of undergraduate GPA and LSAT score makes one qualified for law school—is absurd. Because this process is at best only arguably discriminatory on the basis of some type of intelligence, it cannot effectively filter out the “wrong” type of student. If law schools are supposed to train the best lawyers, politicians, and policymakers who can benefit society, then the law school admissions process is simply another bit of “legal magic.”

Why does such an egregiously unsound policy exist? Here, we arrive at the punch line of this joke: because a magazine tells us to, and we obey. A certain magazine tells us that the quality of a law school is dependent on the quality of its students, which is dependent on two numbers. Prospective students make the decision on where to obtain their legal education based on this “quality.” Coming full circle, law school deans perpetuate this process and reinforce the legal magic by attempting to improve their law school’s quality on the basis of this “quality” rating.

A new standard of admissions: medical school admissions model

While intelligence is undoubtedly an important characteristic of lawyers, the current process fails to evaluate potential lawyers on a number of other characteristics that may be equally or even more important. A better, or even simply sound, standard of admissions should consider these other factors.

What should prospective lawyers be evaluated on?

Below are three characteristics that prospective lawyers should be evaluated on. This list is not exhaustive, but the quality of lawyers will be improved and the gap between magic and reality can be bridged if these factors are considered.

Moral character

It is one thing to teach prospective lawyers professional ethics, and an entirely different thing to distinguish them on the basis of moral character. “Fixing” morally crooked lawyers by teaching them ethics is simply teaching a bad man how to use the law. On the other hand, training morally righteous people in the practice of law empowers them to benefit society. While moral character may seem problematic because it seems subjective, there are moral character traits which are less subjective. For example, rather than evaluating people on their political ideology, they should be evaluated on their understanding of and belief in concepts such as basic fairness and justice.

Common sense

Prospective lawyers who lack common sense should not be trained, because in becoming lawyers, they become empowered to waste society’s time and energy, and bring disrepute onto the practice of law. For example, suits like Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc. and this [] were brought by lawyers who lack common sense, regardless of whether or not they prevail on the merits. More than a simple waste of judicial resources, these suits compel society to incur additional costs to ensure strict compliance with the law, thereby harming many for the benefit of a few.


A great lawyer must be able to see and evaluate the many strengths and weaknesses of the issues he deals with. Creativity is the critical driving force behind the ability to see the best solutions to a problem. Further, creative application of existing law spurs its evolution. If a law school’s mission is to train great lawyers, then creativity must be central to the evaluation process. Only by training creative lawyers can a law school honestly say that it is training the lawyers that will best be able to change society.

How can this model be implemented?

“Implementation” implicates two things: first, how to evaluate applicants under this proposed standard, and second, how to get law schools to apply it.

The first issue may be best dealt with by an admissions committee. But, perhaps requiring an interview and/or additional essays may be helpful in evaluating an applicant’s character. An interview would give the school an opportunity to converse with the applicant in person and obtain information pertinent to the standard outlined above. Similarly, additional essays would allow an applicant to present more dimensions of his or her character, and depending on the prompt, may be extremely helpful in evaluating character, common sense, and creativity.

The second issue may be more difficult to tackle, primarily because the rankings seem to be a permanent fixture in the process, and those who have succeeded under the existing system are loath to rebel against it. One possibility would be to change the rankings to reflect the better standard. If the rankings were changed to reflect the quality of students beyond two numbers, then law schools would be forced to take into account whatever else the rankings considered. However, this method is difficult to implement because these characteristics are not easily quantified. Another possibility would be to change the LSAT so that its score reflects the better standard. Again, the difficulty lies in the forced quantification of qualities which may be qualitatively evaluated, but not easily quantified. Maybe the only solution is to hope that law schools will eventually recognize that educating the “best” minds should be their paramount mission and cooperatively flout the rankings-driven process, thereby breaking the cycle.

In conclusion, even though adopting this standard goes against the rankings system, by adopting this standard, the entering class of prospective lawyers will be better selected to serve the law school mission of training the “best” minds, providing the best educational environment for its students, and producing successful lawyers who can benefit society.


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r6 - 07 Jan 2010 - 21:35:38 - IanSullivan
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