How LSAC Is Supporting Diversity in Law School in the Harvard Admissions Case
At the Law School Admission Council, our origin story is tied to the advancement of equity in education. Before LSAC was founded, law school admission too often was driven by the prestige of a candidate’s school or family connection rather than the candidate’s potential for success in legal studies. For more than 70 years, we’ve sought to level the playing field by promoting quality, access, and equity in legal education.
In that spirit, LSAC was honored to join more than three dozen other legal organizations in signing on to an amicus brief in the ongoing Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard case. In a nutshell, the plaintiffs in this case, which was filed in 2014, seek to force Harvard University to stop considering diversity in its undergraduate admission process. A judge ruled in favor of Harvard last year, and the case is now in the appeals process.
The brief, filed by the American Council on Education, emphasizes that diversity in college classes advances learning, enriches environments, and prepares students for an increasingly complex society. LSAC fully supports this argument and the efforts of its member law schools, including Harvard, that believe diversity adds an important component to the value of their incoming classes. It’s critical for LSAC to continue to be an advocate for diversity and encourage schools to evaluate candidates holistically.
As we’ve often said, candidates are not numbers, whether that is their LSAT score or their undergraduate GPA. Each of those should be factors in a holistic admission process, but so should consideration of a candidate’s full background and experiences. Leanne Shank, LSAC’s general counsel and senior vice president for legal and corporate affairs, says it’s important to note that “LSAC is driven by our goal of enhancing pipeline-building and diversity in law schools and the legal profession.” Shank says, “By supporting Harvard in this case, we’re supporting their belief in diversity as a compelling interest that justifies the consideration and use of race as one factor in a holistic approach to making admission decisions.”
Kent D. Lollis, LSAC’s vice president and chief diversity officer, notes that LSAC has participated on similar briefs in previous cases in this area, dating back to Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in the late 1970s. “We have been active in every case that’s come to the court since then,” Lollis says. “The arguments have become much more complicated, but the outcomes have been the same. We know how important this is to fairness in admission, and LSAC will continue to advocate for a fair and inclusive admission process that ensures all qualified students have access to higher education.”
While LSAC is not a leading participant in this case, we felt it was important to show our support for Harvard and other schools that use diversity as one of many factors in admission. There are no easy answers, and the debate about race and ethnicity in education is far from over, but LSAC will continue to support schools and candidates in this important effort — and, in turn, continue to pursue our own mission of building a more just and prosperous world.