AccessLex Institute Research

Document Type

Issue/Research Brief/Blog

Publication Date

1-2020

Keywords

law school diversity, law school admissions, admission factors, LSAT score, undergraduate GPA

Abstract

Law student diversity is critical to the robust exchange of ideas that is the basis of legal education. Unfortunately, many law schools struggle to enroll classes that reflect the demographics of the regions, states, and even cities in which they are located. A commonly cited reason for the dearth of diversity in many schools is that the pool or “pipeline” of eligible prospective students is not diverse itself.

The premise of this critique is rooted in the manner in which “merit” in the admission process is conceived. LSAT scores are the most prominent admission factor. Past academic performance, typically undergraduate GPA (UGPA), is often given prominence as well. Applicants with high LSAT scores and UGPAs will have many possible options for law school. Law schools also consider other factors, such as personal statements, letters of recommendation, and work experience. But the LSAT score and UGPA typically bear the most weight.

Ideally, the weight conferred to admission factors is justified by the value of each factor (or combination of factors) in predicting outcomes. Fairness, equity, and the fostering of diverse student bodies require that admission factors be properly contextualized. Narrow conceptions of merit can place applicants from underrepresented backgrounds at a disadvantage in the admission process, due, most significantly, to clear and enduring racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic LSAT score disparities. When factors such as LSAT scores are given undue weight, their impact is unduly harmful to some applicants.

But how can a law school determine the predictive value of different admission factors? The purpose of this fourth volume of the Roadmap to Enrolling Diverse Law School Classes series is to provide law schools with a guide to using empirical research methods, such as regression analyses, to gain a better understanding of the relative impact of admission factors on student outcomes.

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