A new pilot begins for LSAC’s Legal Education Program
By Kaitlynn Griffith, senior vice president of product development
On March 16, LSAC announced the Legal Education Program – carving out a new pathway to legal education … a new pathway so innovative and inclusive that students who may never have considered a legal career or law school can develop the confidence, capacity, and commitment to make a difference in the world of law and justice. A new pathway designed to help students not only survive the rigor of law school, but also thrive.
Long before the public announcement, the vision and the groundwork for the Legal Education Program was well underway. Over the last two years, we have been interviewing students, undergraduate institutions, and law schools to understand the challenges and barriers students face in pursuing a legal education and eventual career. We dove into the research, aided by more than seven decades of LSAC’s assessment science experience, to understand the critical skills needed for law school success. We have held standard setting workshops with law and undergraduate faculty to define the learning objectives of the program. We have designed new measures for the program to assess students’ mastery of these critical skills. Based on findings from the literature as well as initial analyses using internal data, we’re striving to develop a program that, once fully implemented, will be a data-proven, valid, and reliable predictor of law school success.
More recently, our team at LSAC, in conjunction with the four participating pilot undergraduate institutions – Cornell College, George Mason University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and the University of South Alabama – has been hard at work designing and implementing a pilot version of the program that will launch this fall with some 60 students participating across the four schools. We are also working with another three or four schools that will be participating in the pilot this spring. We will be able to announce those schools shortly.
Students enrolled in the fall pilot will take the LSAT in September. They will take two courses and will take the LSAT again after completing the courses.
The courses were designed to foster skills that will help students succeed in law school, which include reasoning, argumentative writing, speaking, active listening, time management, effort, attention to detail, working constructively with others, and open-mindedness.
Data from the pilot will be used to evaluate the efficacy of the program and examine the reliability and validity of the new measures developed for the Legal Education Program.
Beyond the Pilot
The Legal Education Program is a new holistic pathway to law school. In addition to developing and measuring critical skills needed for law school through their undergraduate coursework, when fully operational, the program will provide students opportunities to explore different pathways to law careers through mentorships, experiences, and activities that will help them develop a sense of belonging within the legal profession. The program will culminate with a portfolio of work, and students who demonstrate mastery of key skills will earn a certification that can be submitted to law schools when they apply. In the future, this certificate will be used as an alternative to the LSAT or another admission test.
Who is helping shape the Legal Education Program?
An advisory committee is assisting in the development of the Legal Education Program. The committee includes leaders and thinkers from legal and undergraduate education and the legal profession.
LSAC has also formed a team of student design partners made up of college students with an interest in law who are providing input that will shape the program moving forward.
In addition to the pilot schools, LSAC is working with design partner institutions to provide input on the program. Our design partners are Cornell College, Dillard University, Northeastern University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. We have also been having many conversations with law school deans, faculty, admissions staff, and prelaw advisors.
Since we initially announced LSAC’s Legal Education Program on March 16, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many voices reached out to support the vision and urge us to continue to strive to create a comprehensive approach and build not only a new pathway to legal education – but a pathway that opens doors to students who otherwise might not have considered making a difference in the world through the law.
As we turn the corner to start this pilot program, we look forward to sharing many more chapters in our story.