You probably didn’t notice, but just about a week ago LSAC rolled out a fantastic new service seemingly designed solely to increase your general levels of stress and discomfort. Now, in addition to getting letters of recommendations, you can also request… Evaluations! The world of pre-law let out an excited cry of “damn it, really? What the hell is this?” What the hell is this, indeed.
What They Are
An Evaluation, as it’s so creatively called, is something that’s being offered by LSAC, which schools can choose to accept or ignore. With evaluations, you have people judging you in a much more measured manner than they do with letters of recommendation. In multiple different categories, your evaluator ranks you on a scale ranging from “Below Average” (bottom 50%) all the way to “Truly Exceptional” (top 1-2%). There are thirty different areas in which you’re measured, including intellectual curiosity, trustworthiness, and motivation. There is a place for additional comments, so it’s not wholly quantitative, though that is seemingly the thrust of it. This is all done online by your evaluator. For the details, check out the LSAC site: http://www.lsac.org/.
What They Are Not
What these evaluations most definitely are not are Letters of Recommendation (LORs). Since the dawn of time law schools have required LORs. This is where your professor actually, you know, writes about you. Evaluations are an entirely different beast.
So What Does This Mean?
For now, maybe not a lot. Schools can choose to accept or not accept evaluations., but there doesn’t seem to be much indication that they will wholly replace LORs. This service is brand new, and it might be some time before anything is wildly changed. For the time being, it looks like many schools will allow you to submit evaluations if you opt to do so. UCLA mentions that you may supplement your application with up to two evaluations, but they are not necessary; their LOR requirements remain in place. Seton Hall says that you can use evaluations, but you still must have at least one formal letter (whose writer, to make things more complicated, can also choose to fill out an evaluation as well). It seems that most schools, however, don’t list information about evaluations. Whether this means that they won’t want them or that they just haven’t updated their info remains to be seen, and these questions will hopefully be answered as 2011 applications begin to come out next month.
So what should you do? If you’re applying a bit later, you can wait to see as applications come out. Whenever in doubt as to what to do, directly contact the admissions office for each school to which you’re applying. After they start to get a flood of questions, more and more schools will likely put their policies regarding evaluations clearly on their websites. But it looks like not a whole lot should be changing, at least this time around.