New LC law 3-3 program disappoints

Photo of lewis and clark law sign up close
Leo Bernstein-Newman

With graduate programs and law schools around the country announcing their admissions decisions in recent weeks, the Lewis & Clark campus has been reckoning with its own students’ continuing education prospects. The class of 2023 is moving on, but so are a few members of the class of 2024. At least, they were supposed to be. 

The Lewis & Clark Law School and College of Arts and Sciences partnered on the 3-3 Admissions Program – a program wherein pre-law students pursue an undergraduate degree in three years, and move on to the LC law school for another three years of legal education. Should the students meet certain GPA and LSAT requirements, they receive guaranteed admission. 

This year was the first time a cohort of third-years was eligible to apply for the relatively new program, but many had to change their plans after facing rejection when they had thought acceptance was guaranteed.

Pre Law Advisor and Assistant Professor of English With Term Andrea Hibbard advises students on LC’s opportunities in law.

“Lewis & Clark is pretty special,” Hibbard said. “We’re one of just a handful of colleges across the country that has their own law school. . . So we wanted to provide our students with a pathway to that last one, but I should say that this guarantee of admission applies to students who have spent four years at the college too, and that’s always been in place. So this was just a way to, if students want to save time and money, have an opportunity to do that.” 

However, the clarification that the guarantee of admission is limited to students who have spent four years in undergrad was not made known to many students who were counting on it. In fact, the website guarantees acceptance for students. 

Madley Overstreet ’24 is an Environmental Studies major hoping to pursue a career in environmental law, who recently applied to the 3-3 program and was denied admission.

“The people advising me have been really nice and accommodating, and they’ve really strived to help me out,” Overstreet said. “So I do appreciate that it’s a pretty good community, but it also sucks because I feel like I didn’t have a backup plan. Like I planned my entire academic career around this, and then all of a sudden I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Hibbard addresses the importance of achieving at least the median LSAT score of the previous year, regardless of whether students are on three or four year undergrad tracks.

“I wouldn’t feel responsible sending a student over there if they weren’t able to achieve the median of the entering class,” Hibbard said. “Because it’s hard enough to do law school when you’ve gone through four years of college, and maybe you even worked for a few years. I want every one of our students who goes over there as part of the 3-3 program to be successful.”

Hibbard makes an effort to prepare students for the LSAT so that this is not an unreasonable expectation. 

“We’ve ordered (practice) books, the study guides at the bookstore,” Hibbard said. “Students have access to Khan Academy, which offers free LSAT prep . . . And of course, it’s always useful to go ahead and establish an account with the Law School Admissions Council, because they have resources on their website, too.”

Yet, Overstreet explains that her academic track as an  environmental studies major did not equip her with the skill set needed to do well on the LSAT, especially since she had to concentrate on taking classes in her major so that she could complete the requirements to graduate in three years.

“They do have a free LSAT class that I took on the weekends,” Overstreet said. “But it’s hard to get in sometimes because there’s a lot of demand for it… And also because it was on the weekends; that was my time to decompress from the week. So it was hard for me to be motivated to go… and (while) I could pay for classes, that’s expensive and not in my budget and not accessible for everyone.”

Overstreet points to the problematic nature of hinging admission almost entirely on an LSAT score, and how this contradicted what she had been told about the program.

“I think that the process of standardized testing itself is really flawed, this program aside,” Overstreet said. “And that’s a harder thing to fix, because that’s out of Lewis and Clark’s control. But I would say the main thing for me was probably the testing, because that’s the one thing that I didn’t meet, and they were actually surprised that I wasn’t able to do it. And they were telling me the entire time that ‘you’re such a good candidate for this program.’”

Jeni Baez, ’24, was the only student to be accepted into the 3-3 program this year.

“Andrea was super helpful! Freshman year, we created a spreadsheet of my classes I needed to take and when in order to be on track,” Baez said. “The pace for 3-3 is rigorous as I needed to keep my GPA above 3.5, but knowing the requirements and details was helpful in setting goals for myself and staying on top of my studies. I’m thankful for both Andrea Hibbard and Laura Vinson for their continuing help, even currently as I plan my steps for my first year of Law School!”

Although Baez’s case was successful and shows how students can make their academic plans work in a 3-3 timeline, Hibbard recognizes the flaws with how this year’s admission process panned out for some students.

“I think what I’m learning because of this is that I need to make sure that they have a Plan B,” Hibbard said. “Because not everyone will make it through. And I don’t want students to feel like they get to the end of the third year and have a sense of ‘well, now what?’ I want them to have a meaningful fourth year at college.”

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