Wednesday, September 24, 2008

LSAT-Free Law School Admissions

The University of Michigan School of Law recent announced an innovative program to admit 1L law students who have never taken an LSAT exam. Under the Wolverine Scholars program, potential admits with especially good undergraduate records from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor campus may apply for admission to the law school without having taken the LSAT. That is not just an option, either; it is a requirement. "In order to be considered for the Wolverine Scholars program, applicants must not yet have taken the LSAT," explains the law school.

How, then, can the law school trust that the Wolverine Scholars program will bring in qualified students? It doubtless helps that only students of the University of Michigan, an excellent undergraduate institution, qualify. To hedge its bets, though, the law school also requires that students applying as Wolverine Scholars have and maintain a cumulative UM grade point average of at least 3.80. (By way of comparison, the law school last year reported that its 1Ls had a mean GPA of 3.64.)

The Wolverine Scholars program doubtless has many virtues. I wonder, though, if the University of Michigan law school counts among them an opportunity to improve its performance in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. After all, the law school can hardly report LSAT scores for its IL Wolverine Scholars if no such scores exist. Yet those same students offer the school a chance to greatly improve the mean GPA of its IL class.

I predict that many more schools will soon emulate the University of Michigan's Wolverine Scholars program—unless, of course, USN&WR changes its ranking methodology to take away the advantage that LSAT-free admissions offers. USN&WR probably will not do so, however, because it relies in large part on ABA-defined categories of data. So unless the ABA reacts to LSAT-free admissions programs by changing how it measures GPAs, USN&WR will probably not rock the boat.

(HT: My Chapman colleague, and UM law school alum, Denis Binder.)

[Crossposted at Agoraphilia, MoneyLaw, and College Life O.C.]


Anonymous said...

As a current Michigan Law student I am ashamed of this blatant attempt to game the system.

Tom W. Bell said...

Well, Anon, I've seen far worse. And we honestly don't know UM's motives. Leastwise, *I* don't. If you've got some inside information, I'm all ears!

Anonymous said...


If you don't think the rhetoric of the program ("holistic review," economic diversity, major, family disadvantage) is at odds with the unnecessarily rigid admissions criteria for Wolverine Scholars (3.80+ and no LSAT, no exceptions), I have a bridge you might be interested in buying.

Tom W. Bell said...

Granted, Bill, that did catch my eye. And, I might add, I've also wondered why UM *forbids* Wolverine Scholars from taking the LSAT. But--who knows?--maybe UM can explain it all away.

Ran said...

I share y'all's suspicions, but this seems somewhat analogous to "Early Decision" programs that many undergraduate institutions have (or used to have; I've heard that it's on the way out, but I don't know the details). By forbidding applicants from taking the LSAT, they're basically guaranteeing that the students can't apply elsewhere at the same time. A U of M student with a 3.80+ GPA is probably a keeper even if (s)he's apprehensive about taking the LSAT, and this approach gives U of M Law the first crack at that student (and any donations (s)he might make as an alumnus; I understand that law school graduates tend to donate more to their law-school alma-maters than to their undergraduate ones).

But the gaming of the system is surely not a coincidence. ;-)

Andrew said...

Hi Agoraphilia,

I sent you an email a while ago but never received a response; can you please email me so we can discuss my proposal?


Anonymous said...

Good for U of M (my alma mater). Some of us don't test well. I was accepted into U of M's honors program based on H.S. performance, and then my placement exams suggested I should be in remedial English.

Did just fine, graduating with a 3.8 in econ.

And, well, I'm a professional journalist now.

Anonymous said...

I wonder whether this is an attempt to somehow get around Michigan's recently passed ban on considering race and gender in admissions.

Anonymous said...

Not testing well is a recipe for disaster in law school.