In this episode of Status Check with Spivey, Mike discusses the recent Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard Supreme Court decision—which ruled against the legality of race-conscious admissions or "affirmative action"—and what it means for law school applicants, particularly applicants of color. He is joined by two guests, Sydney Montgomery (Executive Director and Founder of Barrier Breakers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to and success in higher education for BIPOC and other marginalized students, and graduate of Harvard Law) and Anna Hicks-Jaco (Spivey Consulting Group's COO and former Interim Assistant Dean of Enrollment Management at Syracuse University College of Law).
Mike: Welcome to the Status Check with Spivey, where we talk about life, law school, law school admissions, a little bit of everything. Today is going to be very much focused on law school admissions vis-à-vis yesterday's SCOTUS affirmative action case. I prefer "race-conscious"; "affirmative action" always seems a little antiquated to me. But everyone knows what we're talking about. I'm joined by two great guests. Let's have Sydney and Anna introduce themselves.
Sydney: Hi, thanks for having me on this podcast. My name is Sydney Montgomery; I am the Founder and Executive Director of Barrier Breakers. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that specializes in working with first-generation and minority students on the college and law school admissions process. We generally have a mission to increase access to, but also success in, higher education and provide help to marginalized students. And we’ve so far helped about 4,000 students through the process. By the end of the year, we'll have helped about 7,000 students through the process. So I'm very excited for this conversation, because these are the students that we help and these are the students most impacted.
Anna: And my name is Anna Hicks-Jaco. I've been on the podcast before. Sydney has also been on the podcast before. I am Spivey Consulting's Chief Operating Officer. And I also have recent admissions experience as the Interim Assistant Dean of Enrollment Management at Syracuse University College of Law, so running the admissions office at Syracuse for this past cycle, and I am actually about to depart. This is my last day as Interim.
Mike: So that last day is a good segue into two things. One, Sydney, you went to Harvard Law, correct?
Sydney: I did.
Mike: One of the two cases rendered yesterday very much involved Harvard. And then two, Anna, this is your last day as a Dean of Admission. What I found interesting yesterday is, I talked to a lot of Deans of Admission, of course, and pretty much categorically all of them had marching orders from central university to not speak publicly on the decision other than the central university statement. The more I thought about that, the more it made a lot of sense. And we'll get into why that is. So we're fortunate that this is your last day Anna, so you have a little bit more breadth to talk about maybe the future of admissions.
Anna: Good timing in multiple ways, I think.
Mike: Agreed. And well, let me introduce myself—Mike Spivey, I’m the Founder of Spivey Consulting Group. I've done admissions at law schools in my career, I’ve done career services at law schools in my career. I very much want to just disclaim, I am not a lawyer, a constitutional law scholar. My two areas of expertise, if there are any, are admissions and rankings. And as much as it annoys me because it hurts the market, when someone who's an LSAT prep tutor, for example, will talk about admissions and I'll listen to their podcast, and some of the things they say really hurt people in the admissions process. Or someone might talk about rankings, a faculty member for example, and get the rankings completely wrong as far as the hidden metrics and weights. I do not want to get the case wrong. So on my half, it's really important to me to focus on only what I know, which is how do I think—based on precedent from California and Michigan and knowing a lot of school Deans of Admission—how will this affect the admissions process going forward? Which is a great first question for you both, I think. How do you think yesterday's SCOTUS decision will impact applicants in the admissions process?
Sydney: Sure, I can start. I think there's a short-term impact and a long-term impact. One of the things that I continually tell students is, Deans of Admission across the board want a diverse class. They still want to admit students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. They still want to hear your story and your personal life experience. And that's a commitment to diversity that hasn't changed.
I think we have seen from both Michigan and Berkeley and California that there are ways that you can still go about creating that diverse class. It might not look the same this upcoming cycle or the cycle after that, but eventually, we can get back to a place of building a diverse class. And so I just really think that's important for applicants to hear because the decision that happened at the Supreme Court does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the admission deans or the values that the schools have. And it's easy for students of color to feel like, “they don't want me anymore,” or “my lived experiences isn’t valuable.” And that is absolutely not true.
And so I think that when we think about how this impacts admissions, I said it in my podcast Break Into Law School yesterday, the things that make a strong application are still the things that make a strong application. And how you go about presenting yourself as an applicant for the most part does not necessarily have to change greatly from what had been before the case.
Mike: You said eventually. So I think of Proposition 209 in California, which was in 1996. And my understanding is, which might be why you use the word eventually, immediately after Proposition 209, which it was the same rendering just at the state level of the SCOTUS decision yesterday, you needed to be race-blind in the admissions process for public schools. My understanding is that there was a dip in diversity for the short term. But in 2022, the most recent data we have, California state schools were doing great with diversity. So do you sort of see it playing out like that? There's going to be a dip in diverse applicants matriculating into law school that is going to eventually curve back towards equal or more representation like it did in California?
Sydney: Yes, with some caveats. So I do think for most schools there will probably be an immediate dip, because that is what history has shown us in both California and Michigan. Immediately after the state bans went into effect, there was a considerable dip in minority enrollment at those law schools. And they were both able to recover. I think it's very important. I know Dean Zearfoss said and Michigan mentioned this as well, that law schools generally do rely on a diverse set of undergraduate students and undergraduate graduates, right. Why I say it's a little bit different is that I think within maybe five or so years, Michigan was able to recoup its diverse class and find ways to work around that.
But we won't see the full effect of the undergraduate graduating class for at least four or five years. Because it will take that long for the first freshman to come in under the new paradigm for undergraduate enrollment, and so it may take a little longer. And schools will have to work a little harder and will have to be really intentional and really strategic and really commit in both time, resources, and money to diversity. But I do think that at some point we will be able to get back to a balance. And I think a lot of that does depend on how hard the undergrad schools work on diversity. If the undergraduate schools work really hard and we bounce back quicker, then of course law schools will have less of an impact but if these undergraduate schools don’t, then it might take a little longer.
Anna: That's a great point, Sydney. When we're talking about the undergraduate populations, one thing that was brought up in the conversation that is happening currently with our firm, with Spivey Consulting Group, was that pretty much every law school has a diversity statement type prompt right now, versus undergraduate admission, many do not have a diversity statement type prompt. So for law schools, they're not necessarily going to have to be changing their admissions process, which legally I think provides some cover in asking for this diversity statement, because they've always asked for it. Versus undergrads, if they just start asking for a diversity statement or start asking for a diversity statement analog, I think that’s more difficult legally. Same caveats as Mike gave earlier—I am not a lawyer; I can't speak that much to this. But my understanding is that it will be more complicated for undergraduate institutions than it is for law schools, given the long-standing diversity statement prompt that most law schools have had for many years. So I think that's a really important point.
I would certainly echo what you said. Every single admissions professional who I've spoken to still remains intensely committed to diversity in the classroom. And that is for a ton of great reasons. There's ample evidence to show that a diverse classroom helps everybody, helps all students. Beyond that, when we're talking in law school specifically, these are the future lawyers of our country. These are the future judges. These are future legislators. It is incredibly important to have diverse representation among that population, especially in law school, and it very much is something that law school admissions offices and law schools as a whole are going to continue to deeply value.
So is there going to be a dip? It seems like it. It seems like the evidence shows that is going to be the case, and I think that is really regrettable. But I do think that if you are someone who is listening to this podcast, if you're someone who is getting deep into this and informing yourself, I think that you are probably going to be okay. Because as Sydney said, schools want to hear about your diversity. The Supreme Court opinion specifically lays out that students should still be talking about their life experiences, the diversity of their life experiences, and how they've gotten them to where they are now. And schools do want to hear that. My concern is more for the less savvy applicants who may not be listening to podcasts and reading blogs and doing tons of research, who might just fill out the application based on the questions that they are asked and not think particularly about how they should communicate certain aspects of their identity.
So that's where I fall, is that you should still absolutely be communicating these things about yourself. Law schools absolutely want to hear them, even if they can't explicitly ask about them. And if you are the person who is doing this research now, I think you're probably going to be okay.
Mike: For the record, you both think that in the short term, we may see, and Sydney referenced evidential reasons, historic evidential reasons in California and Michigan. You both think in the short term, including this coming cycle we are in, a dip in the representation of underrepresented minorities in the, maybe not so much the applicant pool, but in the matriculant pool or in their admit rate versus previous years.
Sydney: I would say across the board, and I would say that also because it's not just about the admit pool, but it's also about like Anna is saying not all applicants are listening to podcasts and doing research. And I do think there's a chilling effect on students of color not even applying and feeling discouraged and feeling like they shouldn’t. You know, “my LSAT score is this and now there's no more affirmative action so I shouldn't even apply.” Which would be the absolute wrong conclusion to come to.
But I had an applicant email me before the decision from the Midwest and say, “someone told me that they weren’t accepting black students anymore after the Supreme Court ruling.” Which of course is not true. But those are thoughts that are out there, and so I think that there will be people who unfortunately don't apply because of this ruling.
Mike: Anna, you also think that maybe next year because of those kinds of myths that Sydney just referred to, we may see a dip in both applications and admission?
Anna: Yeah, I think there are a lot of reasons that we might expect diverse enrollment to go down next year even as soon as next cycle, including the evidentiary reasons as you mentioned. I probably would expect that, which is extremely unfortunate.
Mike: So here's why I differ. I probably read hundreds of statements from universities and law schools yesterday, hundreds. Not a single one intimated anything other than we are still deeply committed to diversity. Now these are statements, they are not actions, and there's a huge difference between words and actions so to be determined. And that’s number one.
I think number two from my experience the past year is Deans of Law Schools and College Presidents who I work with have been talking about this. We all knew it was going to be 6 to 3, at a 99% confidence, it was going to be a 6 to 3 vote. The conservative justices tipped their hands well before the decision was rendered. Colleges and law schools have been talking about this.
The first part of Roberts’ opinion on page 39 as Anna mentioned offline, probably not too surprising, because of the First Amendment. “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities considering an applicant's discussion of how race affected his or her life.” That's an interesting statement although again maybe not unexpected. But Amy Howe who broke on SCOTUSblog the outcome of the case, she was the first to break it. She followed up with a really interesting point by Roberts. To me, this is a crux of my opinion. Race can be considered as long as it is tied to some other factor that the candidate brings to the table. Examples provided by Roberts include courage, determination, leadership, or motivation that led to the achievement of a goal.
Let me just put my Admissions Dean cap on. If I'm reading a personal statement and someone's talking about having had the courage to play the trumpet as a middle school student in front of the auditorium, and I use that example because I had to do that. And I was freaking horrible at playing that, I was so bad at playing the trumpet that this was almost like psychologically minorly traumatizing. The band director made me not play the first two songs, just move my finger songs, and I could only play the one song I could get right, which is kind of ridiculous, right? I was in middle school, the parents don't care.
Anna: That's very unfortunate.
Mike: Yeah, it's still with me, Anna, well maybe you can join me in a therapy session.
Anna: We’ll unpack that.
Mike: So was that courageous of me? Maybe, yeah. I played three sports in high school. Was it courageous of me to put on a football helmet and bang up against other people going full speed? Maybe. Is it more courageous to go through life with a voice that's suppressed and held down? When you look at Justice Roberts, not mine, but Justice Roberts’ words, and you're measuring motivation and courage. I think a lot of admissions offices in the short run, and this is why I differ maybe, yeah maybe the person with the violin story is super compelling and that's going to give them a bump in the application. But more often, maybe the person who has faced life-long obstacles from age zero to application, maybe that's a more compelling example of courage.
Dr. Paul Conti, who was a Psychologist at Stanford, writes on trauma and things that overwhelm our coping mechanisms. This very well-regarded psychologist defines being underrepresented in America as chronically traumatizing because of that lifetime of it overwhelming your coping mechanisms. Into both of your points, I think most law schools and colleges are on that page.
So let me just end on this note. I had the news on yesterday from 3 a.m. till 8 p.m. when I said, I am so sick of the news I'm going to watch The Witcher. But in that period the panelists kept saying the same thing, how do we reconcile this conundrum of the Supreme Court just said we can't consider race. But the Supreme Court also said you can talk ad libitum, my words not theirs, meaning as much as you want, about your race as your journey, your background, whatever. And I think the reconciliation is talking about that journey and how it made you have courageous decisions, motivating life goals is still going to be a hugely important part of the law school admissions process.
Sydney: Now I definitely agree, but my opinion in advising our applicants, especially applicants of color, is that they don't share that the only way to get into schools is to talk about their most traumatic racial experiences. Because I think that can also be a level of trauma in and of itself. I absolutely support and we help our students of course talk about their race and their ethnicity in their personal statements and their diversity statements. And there's absolutely a place to talk about what they’ve overcome or how it shaped them, how it's given them a different perspective. I'm a huge fan of intersectionality and talking about how the different multitudes of identities you have intersect in ways that have shaped you and will make you a strong attorney.
But I'm also cautious because I know that there will be students whose immediate reaction to the news is, “okay my personal statement has to only be about my racial trauma and my diversity statement has to only be about this.” And they might feel compelled to tell stories they don't want to tell. If you want to tell a story and it's important to you, I absolutely like helping our students to do that.
But I also have students who have come to me and who have said, “I don't really want to tell the story but I feel like I have to tell the story in order to get admitted,” and then if they don't get admitted, they feel like their story wasn't enough. Their trauma wasn’t enough. I had a student once say she felt like the admissions process was her doing a dance for white men basically and laying bare her racial trauma. And obviously, people in admissions are not just white men.
Mike: In fact, the majority aren't white men. Yeah, I do want all applicants to know that but maybe particularly underrepresented minority applicants to know that. There is a great deal of diversity in higher education in admissions offices.
Sydney: And thank you and that is a very important point. I guess what I'm just trying to say is I want students of color to feel very comfortable telling their story and sharing what they've overcome in their racial and ethnic backgrounds. But I also don't want students of color to feel burdened and feel like they have to now do something that they don't want to do because of the ruling as well.
Anna: Yeah, I agree with everything you just said. On the flip side, I do think that there are people who are just not going to know what they should talk about, and are not going to know how to best represent themselves, and are not going to communicate necessarily the information that law schools do want to know.
I think the issue of feeling like you have to talk about your worst and most horrible experiences is a pervasive problem in admissions. You do want to get to the heart of what has brought you to where you are today and what has made you the person you are today, but at the same time, as you said, that can almost be retraumatizing in a lot of cases. So I think that's kind of a whole can of worms.
But I think that if everybody knew exactly how to present themselves, I agree, Mike, I don't think that there would really be a big issue—I don't think that it would necessarily cause that much of a change—but I don't think that everyone does. And our perception is skewed, because we talk to the applicants who want to work with us, we talk to the applicants who are doing research online. But there are a lot of people who don't even know that those resources exist.
Mike: Yeah, I mean hopefully not just the three of us but many, many—and I know Sydney mentioned Dean Z's blog; I read it this morning—there are many more Dean Zs out there who have real admissions experience or who are rendering admissions right now, or who are deeply committed to the admissions process like you are Anna, like you are Sydney. Who are hopefully spreading the word, and for free. It doesn’t cost a penny to listen to this podcast.
Sydney: Yeah, absolutely. I want to do a very quick shameless plug. Barrier Breakers is having our second annual Break Into Law Conference next weekend, July 8th and 9th. We have over 40 law schools that are going to attend the law school fair on Saturday, July 8th from 2 to 4 p.m. Eastern. It's a free conference and it’s a virtual conference and I would encourage and I have encouraged students to talk to these law school deans and law school admissions officers; they will be there at the conference next weekend. And ask them, share your concerns, ask their take and their thoughts, what they’re thinking. Rather than going on Reddit or forums or all sorts of other black holes, right? You have an opportunity next weekend at the Break Into Law Conference to literally get information.
We'll also have a panel on equity in law school admissions. Angela Winfield, the Chief Diversity Officer of the Law School Admission Council, will be there. Ask her, hear her take. Mike and I will be there talking about the future of legal education. And I encourage those that are in law school, we also have a law firm and career fair. So we have law firms, we have public interest organizations’ hiring and recruitment managers. Ask them about their diversity initiatives, what they're planning to do, how they plan to still build a diverse recruiting class.
Mike: We’ll link the registration in our show notes. Who's your favorite presenter of all your panelists?
Sydney: Oh, that's so hard. I don't like to play favorites. But I do have to say, I should say Yolanda because she's on our board. But actually I think it's Angela, because she's so genuine and just transparent and honest. And Angela is at the very top of a very large organization that usually people don't think of as being warm and fuzzy. Like Law School Admission Council is a very large organization, but the way that Angela last year told people, “message me on LinkedIn.” And she told her story, and she was so warm. Like people's reactions, like people felt seen and heard by the Law School Admission Council by her in ways that I think don't happen often. So I'm really excited for her. To see, there are a lot of really great panelists, it’s really hard to pick favorites.
Mike: The reason why Anna and I were losing it is because I'm a panelist, so this is a stupid, silly trick question.
Sydney: I didn’t mention you, Mike. [laughs]
Mike: I have zero ego in this field if I’m the lowliest panelist. So moving on, so we’ve weighed in on the macro. At a more micro-level people are working on their applications right now. How do you think law school applications are going to change? How should people be considerate of these changes? And then how is the decision-rendering process going to change? And Anna you're probably particularly helpful here since you've been doing admissions every day, you're doing it today for a law school.
Anna: Yep, right after this. I think that many diversity statement prompts are going to become a little bit vaguer and a little bit broader. So you might see things like an "adversity statement," you might see things like an "identity statement." On the applicant’s side, I don't think that how you write about yourself in these ways necessarily has to be very different, or different at all, even, from how you would write a diversity statement. You would just need to keep an eye out for—okay, where is the law school asking for this information, and how is it different from last year? Because I think it might be a little bit different from last year.
I think law schools also might be including more questions having to do with sort of proxy information for the sort of diversity that they're trying to achieve. So they might be asking more questions about socioeconomic status, they might be asking questions about the zip code you were born in, about various aspects of your background that aren't necessarily explicitly race and ethnicity, which that checkbox is going to go away it looks like. Within the law school application itself, there's probably not going to be a race or ethnicity checkbox anymore.
Mike: It would be a violation of the law, is my understanding, to have such a checkbox.
Anna: That is my understanding. Sydney, you are the lawyer here.
Sydney: I would agree with you, that is also my understanding.
Anna: So you're not going to have that, but you're still going to have those other opportunities to talk about yourself, as we've been discussing. And there might be some other questions about things like income and where you were born and the high school you went to, things like that.
In terms of the decision-making process, I think a lot of law schools do regular tracking, do a lot of data-crunching throughout their cycle to make sure that they are building the class that they want to build. And that's not just diversity, of course; that's LSAT, that's your GPA, that's all sorts of other factors. But again, my understanding of the case is that they will no longer be able to keep track of macro-level data about race and ethnicity. I'm going to look to Sydney again here as the person who has a law degree of the three of us. Is that your understanding of the case?
Sydney: Yeah, so I think it—we’ll be able to see exactly how it plays out—but my understanding is that they will not be able to really have that data on like the racial composition of their class, because it’s supposed to be a race-blind process. I could be a little wrong in how it actually gets played out from a practical standpoint, but today that's my understanding.
Mike: This is why I think, one of several reasons why many law school Deans of Admission are sort of under marching orders from the powers that be at their central universities or law schools, “hey, don't comment yet.” Because there's a lot of unknowns. I'll give you two more unknowns. Can LSAC or the ABA, are they going to have the macro-level demographic racial data? I actually don't know the answer to that and I've been doing this for 24 years. You know in the lawsuit, Grutter v. Lee Bollinger, who is now the retiring President of Columbia University. One thing we’re kind of interested in is are future lawsuits going to name Deans of Admission? Now before I freak out my friends who are Deans of Admission who are gracious enough to listen to our podcast, being named in a lawsuit is not a huge deal. It doesn’t mean you're going to jail or your school is not back you, but a lot of people aren't talking yet about some of these unknowns because they are unknown.
Anna: Yeah, I mean it came out yesterday, so how this all actually plays out, a lot of it is to be seen for sure. I think a lot of law schools, a lot of universities are probably seeking counsel from attorneys who are going to be looking at this case extremely carefully and telling them, “these are the parts of your admissions process that need to change. These are the parts of the admissions process that you need to cut.”
Speaking about the LSAC and ABA data, because currently it is required by the ABA, to be accredited, for you to report on this race and ethnicity data for your student body. This has been under discussion with our team, Mike, with our sort of internal conversations, and my best guess at this point would be that data is still going to have to be reported at the end of the day to the ABA—and again this is speculation—but that law schools will have to be very careful in terms of redacting that information and making sure that that information is not available to the decision makers while they're making the decisions, is my sort of best guess/understanding of what's going to happen moving forward. But that's certainly not for sure.
Mike: Since we all mentioned a lot of unknowns, I have a strong opinion that the application is going to change and the note-taking of the applications in redaction and things like that are going to change. But until there's actual case law from lower courts that fills in the knowns. I see both your points very acutely and well stated by you all and the evidence historically when you make admissions race-blind, diversity suffers. But I just think that there are so many unknowns, that our opinion was worded in such a way that we actually might need case law from lower courts and is someone going to sue a law school? Inevitably yes, there's been many lawsuits against law schools in the past, so there's a reason to believe there will be in the future. And I think law schools are going to rely a lot on that case law before there's major change.
My personal opinion is, Anna addressed the application changes—you'll see maybe more questions like life experience versus diversity statement. I think that the note-taking is going to change a lot. If I were a dean of a law school, I would very much change the wording of my notes. I did this when I was at Vanderbilt in admission anyways. We would just say background has elevating, differentiating factors. Again it could be playing the violin, it could be you being on an athletic team or a debate team. In the short term, this is something the applicants don't know of, so it's fun to pull back the curtain. Your application is going to have lots of notes. And if Michigan is a precedent, the file readers are now for Michigan because they were involved in this change two years after Grutter. So they had to change sort of their parlance of note taking so they did. And what happened is for Michigan they had to read applications much more slowly, it took much more of a long time, to me that's always a win. We talk in our book Anna, Anna and I and two others just published a book, but we also talk to our clients and online. The more time you can get an admissions officer to spend on your application, the more likely you are to get admitted. So even the slowing down of the process is not all bad. I think I'm in more of an optimistic mood than a lot of people. I kept hearing people saying “deeply disappointed” yesterday, I'm in a to-be-determined mood.
Anna: I think the one thing about fleshing out the case law, and law schools are going to be sued, is that every law school is trying desperately to not be that one that gets sued. So I do think that there's going to be more action in terms of just trying to avoid being the subject of those lawsuits, because lawsuits are expensive and take a ton of time for a member of any admissions office who's trying to build a class. And obviously, there are a million reasons that nobody wants to be embroiled in a lawsuit. And so I do think that law schools are going to take decisive steps to try to avoid that.
Mike: Let me add on, not just expensive and time-consuming for the law school, but for the person suing.
Anna: Oh yeah, absolutely that.
Mike: But people don't consider that. My entire adult career has been law school admissions in some form or another, I have so many close friends who are lawyers at all levels of the spectrum. Government, Biglaw, small law, so if there’s one uniform advice they’ve given me is lawsuits are not worth your resources and drama, Spivey. So someone's making stories up about you online or if a large non-profit is interfering in your business, it’s probably not in your best interest to get involved in a lawsuit because you will spend 18 hours a day online. We can wrap this up. I just want to make sure we address what most of the people listening to this, which are going to be applicants, I want to make sure we address their considerations. Which is how is this going to change the admissions process? The applications are going to be different. There are go-getters out there right now listening to this online who want to finish their application by July. I would strongly recommend you don't set an arbitrary date but wait until August and September when applications open up and read each application carefully. Because if there's ever going to be a change and there is, this is the year there’s going to be the most change in applications, agreed?
Mike: Please, even if you have a 180 LSAT and a 4.0 GPA, don't complete your application now. Complete your application when you actually see the applications. And then have someone proofread it. It doesn’t have to be a consulting firm, have your friend who is a super editor proofread it twice and then submit it. What are some other good takeaways for the listeners?
Sydney: This is not the year to apply in March or in February, and you know it’s never the year to apply in February or March. But if I were to say, I'm not as crazy as some people say, “you must apply in September.” But I do think that applying in 2023 by December, when you have a strong application, is going to be ideal. And I'm speaking especially to students that are applying below the medians, which has to be most of the students that we work with at Barrier Breakers. If you're an applicant with a lower GPA or a lower LSAT score, you want to try to make sure that you can apply in the fall.
Anna: Yeah, I think that's what Dean Z said also, Mike, in your last episode. By the end of the year, by the end of December is typically the benchmark for applying early/on time. If you are after the new year, certainly plenty of people apply after the new year, including below both medians, and get in with scholarships. But in terms of setting yourself up for the best possible outcomes, I think the rule of thumb is sort of by the end of the year. Generally, the earlier the better, but the whole fixation on "it has to be September" is just not helpful for anybody, I don't think.
But, yeah, I think in terms of takeaways, talk about your background. Even if a law school doesn't explicitly ask for some piece of information about yourself, if it is relevant to who you are today, if it's relevant to your identity, your goals, your passions, talk about it. Talk about yourself, absolutely, because law schools—even if they can’t ask—they want to know.
And then the other takeaway, I would just say, is not to limit yourself based on assumptions that you are making about what law schools are looking for in applicants, the sorts of people that law schools are going to be able to admit. Don't artificially limit yourself, don't take schools off of your list as a result of this decision. Shoot your shot.
Sydney: There are a lot of pipeline/pathway legal access organizations, not just at Barrier Breakers but I know there’s LEAP, there’s Just The Beginning. There's so many, I can't even name them all. But a lot of them have people of color also that are experienced in admission or experienced in working with you, with your essays, not that you only need to work with a person of color if you are a person of color. There’s plenty of of great people regardless. But I would just say there is a lot of help out there and there are a lot of places where you can get your answers, again not Reddit, that might be able to help you through this process. If you've never considered looking at a pipeline program or a pathway program or a legal access non-profit, there are lots that you can research that can also help you.
Anna: So do you think this decision is going to impact pipeline programs, especially the ones that are explicit about trying to increase diversity?
Sydney: I don't think that, at least in the near-term, it will impact the work that we're able to do explicitly for students of certain racial minority backgrounds, because we are a private organization. But I hope that it increases funding and support for organizations that are doing that work. Perhaps that institutions of higher ed are able to partner more with those organizations in order to help them increase that number in the applicant pool.
Anna: I would expect law schools to want to partner with more pipeline organizations, to want to go to more events that are diversity-focused and recruiting events. So definitely I think the work that you're doing is more important than ever.
Mike: Remember Anna, I’m sure you do, it was like four months ago or three months ago, we had dinner with Chancellor Syverud, of a major university and we asked him about this case because he was essentially the crux of the Grutter v. Bollinger case since he had clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. And remember he was like, “Well it's not so much the rendering, read the opinion closely.” Do you remember when he said that?
Mike: He didn't elaborate, our time was limited. His legendary head basketball coach was resigning that night as well. So he didn't have much time to elaborate. But I think one of the things that he may have been alluding to is they don't mention pipeline programs at all, and they don't mention, in Dean Z's blog yesterday, she mentioned the three buckets. Before you apply, the admissions process, and then after you are admitted, the matriculation/getting you to attend. This decision only touched the second bucket. I think it’s noteworthy to mention.
My final thought, if you're an applicant the only thing worse than assumptions is blindly listening to one person who claims to be an expert even though they're just some random person with a great deal of confidence saying you have to do something this way. That's the only worst thing you can do in admission versus assumptions. So I would agree with Anna, your point about please don't make assumptions.
The other point that I think is just important to everyone listening is this past cycle was very slow, and this upcoming cycle is going to be very slow. There are tons of unknowns more so than any time in my 24-year career doing this. What happens when there's uncertainty, things go slowly. And I can't say this strong enough, because every year, I say you might apply in September and not hear until June and then and I think people gloss over it. And then in June there's this incredible, “I can't believe I applied in September.” Expect a slow cycle, some people will be admitted October, November, December. Even if you should apply in 2023, the vast majority of decision rendering is going to happen in 2024, I believe.
Sydney: I agree with that.