Selection into the JD has until recently been based on three criteria: a personal statement, academic results from previous tertiary studies, and the LSAT score and essay. From now on, it will be based only on the latter two. De Minimis interviewed Associate Dean Alison Duxbury to find out why.
Asked about the reason for the change, the Associate Dean said that studies had found that the best predictor of success in the JD was the LSAT combined with tertiary results. As such, it has been deemed unnecessary to consider a prospective student’s personal statement as well.
The motivation behind including the personal statement amongst the criteria in the past, she said, was to understand the interests, backgrounds and motivations of applicants. This information was used to help develop the JD program. With eight years’ experience, this is no longer needed to the same extent. For the purpose of selecting any one individual for entry, it had not been accorded the same weight as the other two criteria in any case.
Some students had expressed their concern to De Minimis that removing the personal statement from the criteria might have the effect of homogenising the student population. The personal statement had allowed prospective student to talk about what it was that motivated them to apply for the JD, and so in theory would allow the law school ensure a level of diversity amongst those it accepted.
The Associate Dean said, however, that the personal statement had been used to see how prospective students articulated their motivation, rather than what the motivation itself might be. The personal statement was therefore unnecessary because this could be gleaned from the written aspect of the LSAT.
Diversity, she said, was ensured by the Graduate Access Melbourne Scheme (GAMS), a program which is committed to providing educational opportunities for students from a range of backgrounds.
Asked if there was a danger in making entry requirements more formulaic, she said that it is too early to say, but that she doesn’t expect that it will have much effect.
Financial considerations were apparently not behind the change.
It should be pointed out that the change will only increase the focus on how well students can perform in exams. It is perhaps unsurprising that how well students have done in exams in the past is correlated with how well students will do in exams during the course of the JD. But should success in the JD, and entry into the JD, be thought of purely in terms of exam results?
Duncan Wallace is a second-year JD student, and Managing Editor of De Minimis