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Nepotism, or FWB at Law School

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Somewhat recently, the Chicago Tribune brought an interesting story to light. Internal emails, recovered through the Freedom of Information Act, show that at the University of Illinois Law School nepotism is alive and well. Back in 2005, Chris Lauzen, an Illinois state senator, apparently asked the chancellor to have a specific student admitted to the school. When the chancellor brought the orders to dean Heidi Hurd, she less-than-enthusiastically responded “She won’t hurt us terribly, but she certainly won’t help us…She will almost certainly be denied admission if the process unfolds as we predict. But she can probably do the work. If you tell me we need to do this one, we will. We’ll remember it though!” Apparently that was all the endorsement the chancellor needed, who simply responded: “Please admit, I understand no harm.”

While this may be disheartening, it really isn’t that surprising. Most people know (or at least suspect) that those with power can use their clout to get their favorite students admitted, who otherwise may have been out of the running. This kind of thing happens in all sorts of fields, often with relatives (Sofia Coppola in the Godfather Part III, RFK becoming Attorney General under his brother), and the field of legal education is no exception. If you thought this kind of nastiness would stop with law school admissions, you’re in for some unpleasant surprises. Throughout your legal career you’ll see people getting things they don’t deserve based on who they know or who they can manipulate. The truth of the matter is that whenever you have rules and a line, there are people who want to game the system and cut the line, and there are other, more powerful, people who will help them do just this. And it’s utterly infuriating, even though we all love it when it happens to us.

So what does all this mean for you and law school admissions? Well, not much. Of course everyone loves having and exploiting these relationships, but there aren’t enough powerful people to go around for all the students who want a back door into law school. So lament the unfairness of it all, but don’t let it dissuade or dishearten you. Work hard in college to get a great GPA, study like you’ve never studied before to attain a fantastic LSAT score, and things will work out just fine. In spite of the frustrating exceptions to the rule, on the whole law school admissions are all about hard work and real achievement.

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