African Americans and other Blacks

Admissions officers may place less emphasis on index numbers for Black applicants, because data suggests applicants with lower index numbers may do well, either in law school or in society.  Many minority students go on to become far greater citizens and successes than their LSAT scores would prophesy.

At the same time, data shows that people with an LSAT score below 148 rarely succeed, so schools will generally not go below this number unless there is strong evidence in your file that you can succeed -- a gpa in at least the 3.5 range, for instance, might offset an LSAT score of 145.  A few schools will accept people with LSATs between 140 and 145.  Virtually no law school will accept LSAT scores below 140.

  • One good reason for this policy is that the MBE (Multi-State Bar Exam) is a standardized test; if you're such a poor test-taker, for whatever reason, that you cannot score above the 20th percentile of LSAT takers, what are your chances of passing the Bar Exam?
  • Another is that the Department of Education has linked Bar Passage rates to a school's accreditation; if a low LSAT predicts a low bar passage rate, every student will be hurt. 

In addition to LSAT score, a school may make allowances for lower grades; some schools do this routinely, while others look for evidence of educational disadvantage. This may be exhibited by poverty during childhood, or by having attended an inner city public school system or a rural, disadvantaged one. Some schools simply try to achieve comparable percentiles within the ethnic and mainstream groups. Thus, if their Caucasian applicants have grades and scores around a 60th percentile, they will look for minorities around the 60th percentile for their group. (Such methods may be challenged legally, and fewer schools either use or admit to using them than did in the past.)

An African applicant may merit special attention if English was not her or his first language, and may offer unique experiences. Many Black applicants have also overcome the effects of significant discrimination and poverty. If you are one of these people, see the discussions of Socioeconomic Factors and Overcoming Obstacles elsewhere in this section.

NOTE that "African American" does not apply to Caucasian or Semitic people who happen to live in Africa. The DOE says that Black/African American applies to a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

Which African-Americans?

One of the biggest areas of dissension in the minority applicant dialogue is that of Afro-Caribbeans versus African-Americans. Afro-Caribbeans often came here as other immigrant groups did, chasing the American Dream, and frequently they caught it! Many of the blacks with top LSAT scores are from families that recently emigrated to the United States, rather than being the descendants of American slaves.

  • One school of thought is that this subverts the original intent of affirmative action, rewarding blacks who don't deserve reparations -- or at least not from the United States. Some other imperialist country may owe them reparations, but we don't.
  • Another school of thought says that regardless of country of origin or length of time in the U.S., black professionals will serve as role models for both black and white Americans, proving to both groups that blacks are not racially or genetically inferior, and showing American ghetto blacks that they too can succeed.

I have no preference of one theory over the other; I find them both to be valid. But more to the point, some law schools will prefer to take African-Americans, even if they have lower numbers than their Afro-Caribbean peers, while others will take Black applicants with solid grades and LSAT scores regardless of country of origin.


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