Do Law Schools Seek “Exciting” and “Diverse” Students?

Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley Jr. writes:

In fact, law schools strive for an elitism that is quite democratic in comparison with many other fields. As at Yale and Harvard, we at Berkeley seek to build a campus community that is as exciting and diverse as our nation. That means a New Jersey physics major who models underwear. A single-parent firefighter medievalist from Denver. A former Navy Seal, a software designer, a late-blooming high school dropout, a dancer with published poetry. And when they are here, they teach each other, they learn to understand each other, and then they remember each other.

I’m dubious. Sure, law schools aggressively look for “diversity” in terms of recruiting students from official minority classifications (though giving preferences based on ethnicity is illegal for Berkeley under California law). But beyond that, and even at the most elite law schools (and unlike at elite private undergrads, where “exciting” applicants do get a significant leg up), admission for 80+% of students is primarily, in most cases almost exclusively, based on LSATs and GPAs. Berkeley Law School may have a physics major who models underwear, a dancer with unpublished poetry, and whatnot, but I bet they all have very high LSAT scores. If these students happen to bear any resemblance to “our nation as a whole,” that’s mere happenstance.

Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with focusing on grades and standardized test scores for law school admissions. I benefited from this myself; I was not nearly “exciting” or “diverse” enough to be admitted to Harvard or Yale undergrad, but did get into their law schools–but let’s not confuse a system designed to diligence, intelligence, a sound educational background, and, to some extent, the wherewithal and resources to attend elite private undergrads with “democracy.”

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