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What is CLEO?

Note:

This is not the CLEO web site. It its the DeLoggio Law School Achievement Program's section explaining (okay, singing the praises of) CLEO.

If you wish to go directly to the CLEO web site, click here. Or feel free to stick around and read for a bit.

The Council on Legal Education Opportunities (CLEO) has evolved from a federally-funded program to a primarily private one. It is currently sponsored by the ABA, law schools, law firms and corporations, as well as receiving some Federal money. Its purpose is to help assure that disadvantaged applicants, especially those who grew up disadvantaged, have a decent chance of succeeding in law school.

The CLEO program is a combination head start program and placement service. CLEO participants attend a five week summer school program at one of their Institutes. There are usually two Institutes, in two different locations. Your work is periodically evaluated, and law schools are given the opportunity to review your evaluations and to interview you. Virtually all CLEO attendees go off to law school at the end of that summer.

As of 2010, the tuition for the Summer Institutes is $500 for low-income applicants and $2,000 for others. When CLEO's budget is in trouble, there aren't many $500 seats available.

Who Is CLEO For?

CLEO is designed to help disadvantaged applicants who are marginally acceptable to one or more law schools, or whom a law school thinks has a much better chance of long-term success with a head start. The typical CLEO participant has a lower gpa or LSAT than the law school usually accepts, and something in the application leads the law school to believe that, with proper preparation, the applicant has a good chance of succeeding.

The good prospect for CLEO will vary a great deal depending on the schools to which you are applying. If your gpa and LSAT are marginal for a top school, and you think that some disadvantage affected your performance, you might be a good CLEO candidate. And if your gpa and LSAT seem so low that no law school will take a chance on you, CLEO might be the factor that changes their minds. In general, though, you must have at least a 2.7 and at least a 140 to have a chance of being accepted to CLEO. More often, you need a 143 or better, as is true at most law schools these days as well.

CLEO isn’t the best route for everyone. You must attend for five weeks, with no children, lovers (legal or otherwise) or pets along with you, and no weekends off. If family obligations of any sort will prevent you from moving in for five weeks, CLEO isn’t a good idea. Students are expected to work hard at these Institutes, so you should apply only if you’re willing to work overtime to prove yourself. Also, you’ll need a school to be willing to take you as a CLEO graduate. Since the purpose of CLEO is to help disadvantaged applicants, a law school might not make the commitment if there is no evidence of disadvantage (either financial, physical, or emotional) in your file.

How are CLEO Attendees Chosen?

There’s a three-part acceptance process at CLEO.

  1. The first part is completing the application, which looks much like a law school application. The main difference is that it focuses more attention on disadvantage than the typical app. CLEO will get an LSDAS report, any recs that you specify in the Law Services LOR system, a personal statement, and financial aid information. The application fee is $25 as of 2010, and will not be waived for anybody. You will also have to apply to at least one CLEO supporting or member school. These change from year to year, since they are determined by annual donations. You can find a complete list at CLEO by clicking here. If you get an earlier year's list, just change the year in the URL. 
  2. The second part is in the hands of the law schools. Shortly after CLEO's application deadline (Feb.1 or 15), member schools are sent a list of applicants, along with information about your gpa, major, etc. Each CLEO supporting or member school tells the CLEO Program Director whether the school

    has already accepted the applicant,
    will commit to accepting the applicant when (s)he completes CLEO, or
    will consider accepting the applicant if (s)he completes CLEO.

  3. The third part involves both the CLEO Program Director and the Institute (summer school) Directors. The law schools’ responses and the applications are reviewed by these directors, and roughly 40 people are chosen to attend each of the Institutes. Since each Institute Director is part of the decision-making process, the criteria for selection will vary with the interests of the directors (just as discretionary admissions decisions are made at most law schools). The strength of the schools’ interest in you will be a part of the decision, as will the quality of your application.

Maximizing Your Chances

Since one of the goals of CLEO is to select applicants who will go on to law school at the end of the summer, you should apply to as many schools as possible who nominate students to CLEO. You should make sure each such school knows that you are a CLEO applicant, so they can consider that possibility in making the admissions decision. If your personal statement does not discuss the disadvantages you have faced, you should include your CLEO essay or other statement of disadvantage in your file. If you are accepted into the CLEO program, you should notify all the schools to which you applied, so they can reconsider your case with that additional knowledge.

For More Information 

  • If you’d like to speak to a CLEO official, look for their table at any of the Law Forums this fall.
  • Click here If you’d like to see the official CLEO web site,
  • And if you’d like to request a paper catalog, contact CLEO at
    • CLEO
      740 15th St. NW
      Washington DC 20005
      ph: 202.828.6100 | toll free: 866.886.4343
      cleo@americanbar.org

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