Law.com today has a lengthy article, "Students seek edge in law school quest" about law school admissions consultants, and I am quoted along with an Accepted.com client. The article discusses some adcom views of folks like me and cites in particular Donald Resnick, former dean of recruitment for NYU School of Law, who claims that personal statements worked on by consultants lack personality and have a sameness and slickness to them.
Since I read essays both before and after a consultant works with the client, I have news for Mr. Resnick: The essays I initially read frequently are bland and impersonal. They have a platitudinous sameness to them that makes you just want to go to sleep. After our clients work with their editors and the editors motivate them to think about what they have done and why they want a legal education, the essays start to change. They have substance to them. They have individuality. They have details. They have personality.
I am incredulous that adcom members like Mr. Resnick; Chloe Reid, associate dean for admissions at University of Southern California Law School; or Columbia Law School Dean of Admissions Nkonye Iwerebon (all quoted in the article) criticize admissions consultants while their undergrad pre-professional advising offices are busy advising their own undergrads on where to apply, how to get accepted, and how to write personal statements to law school. They perform the exact same functions. Of course, these elite private colleges all charge their students thousands of dollars to attend so the cost of that advice is just part of their six-figure tab.The duplicity and obtuseness is rather impressive…
The basic criticism of admissions consultants to law school, which mirror those published earlier in articles about b-school consultants, boil down to:
- The "unfair" advantage provided by consultants.
- The "packaging" that consultants provide.
I’m glad to see that the schools acknowledge we provide our clients with an advantage in the admissions process. They describe it as "unfair" because our clients, horror or horror, have to pay for our services. Of course, when law school graduates finish school they will bill more than we bill. Essentially the schools are selling the economic and professional advantages of a legal education. It sounds hollow when they claim that those who benefit from current economic advantage are acting unfairly.
Furthermore the schools, which charge tens of thousands of dollars to attend law school, ignore all the free advice we provide on our web sites. They also ignore the fact that many of the schools, especially the private ones like the ones served by the critics named above, are still largely the domains of the wealthy — because those are the only ones who can afford them.
People hire admissions consultants for many reasons, but a frequent one is a desire to level the playing field. The child of immigrants is at a disadvantage in the admissions process when compared to the child of American-born, college-educated parents who know the system inside and out. Those immigrants frequently seek out a consultant to fill in the gaps. And someone who knows a gifted writer may have an advantage over someone who doesn’t know a gifted writer. The latter applicant may also seek to level the playing field by turning to consultants. There are numerous other examples of admissions consulting creating equity..
The packaging argument is nonsense. I have to laugh when I read that admissions people can "tell" when an applicant has used a consultant. Do they mean that they are suspicious of well-written, thoughtful essays? Are they going to reject the applications with personal statements that show personality and individuality? Do they ding those whose essays contain substance and reflect introspection and accept those who regurgitate the pablum they think the adcom wants to read?
I hope the admissions offices continue to seek the best applicants based on the evidence. Accepted.com’s clients, like the Georgetown 1L quoted in the article, will continue to get accepted, as they have been doing for the last 10+ years.