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June 04, 2009


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Dan--thanks for this story. Two thoughts here.

First, one of the hidden benefits of the LSAT is that it provides an objective measure of candidates. My sense is that as schools increasingly emphasized the LSAT (perhaps because of their increasing focus on US News rankings), they have used the LSAT as a way of reducing pressure from politicians and alumni to admit applications.

Second, I'm not surprised that even major schools like Illinois receive this kind of pressure to admit students. What somewhat surprises me is that they've responded to it with offers of admissions.


I realize that this is widespread and not surprising, but I still find it troubling. Yes, certain non-minorities benefit from preferences given to legacies, large donors, and those with political pull. But not every non-minority has any of that going for him/her. There are only so many slots at the best law schools, and there are only a handful of law schools considered truly great. Because employers, and especially the academy, put so much emphasis on attending one of those few great schools, the slots at the bottom edge can really matter. If you are a graduate of one of the best law schools in the country, don't you want everyone who gets admitted to that school (including possibly your own children) to get there on some kind of objective merit? LSAT, undergrad school & grades may be imperfect indicators, but they are certainly better indicators than whether your parents are wealthy donors and know a state legislator. Going to a top law school is a key that unlocks professional and career doors, and I believe that the limited number of those keys should be distributed on merit and potential, not on lineage. Of course, I say this as a white male graduate of a top law school whose parents were poor, had zero connections, and never went to college, let alone law school.


I'm not sure why you assume that political pressure isn't brought to bear to admit minority candidates a politician favors as well as non-minorities.

Michael Alexander

This story reminds me of something I heard a long time ago - that George W. Bush wanted to go to University of Texas Law School, but he was denied entry, so he went to Harvard Business School. If true, it gives me some faith - a guy from a powerful family who went to Yale was denied at Texas. Does anybody know if that story is true?


So far, everyone is focusing on the law school's integrity in this. But, of course, there is a more important public issue. The "pressure" comes from a legislator or trustee's implicit threat to use their position to advantage or disadvantage the law school, depending on how the admission decision pans out. If this was ever made explicit, i.e. admit my son or I vote to cut your funding, the real problem with this scenario would be obvious, and it is not whether the law school capitulates.

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