What is CLEO?
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.
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.
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