Revisiting Elle’s LSAT Journey from Legally Blonde

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A third Legally Blonde movie has been announced for Valentine’s Day 2020 and all I can say is…omigod you guys!! No matter your opinion of the franchise, the first Legally Blonde movie is one of the most popular and well-known depictions of the law school application process. And if you listen to the movies’ screenwriters, the original movie inspired a generation of women to go the law school.

One issue there is that the original Legally Blonde had some not-quite realistic depictions of the LSAT study process which may have given that generation some misconceptions about studying. With the franchise back in the spotlight, let’s take a look at Elle Woods’ LSAT journey for a comparison to the real experience of most students.

First, Elle jumped from a score of 143 on her first practice LSAT to a 179 on the official exam. That 36-point increase has probably happened for some students out there, but I’m not so sure it’s possible in Elle’s situation.

If there’s one thing about Elle Woods’ application process that makes me say “no way, not gonna happen,” it’s the timeline of her whole application process. She finds out at the beginning of the movie that her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (because of course that’s his name) is breaking up with her to focus on his political aspirations and attend Harvard Law School in the fall. They are both seniors in college at this point, and we know that Elle will go on to skip Greek Week (in the spring) to study for the LSAT so that she can join Warner in the next year’s Harvard Law School class. So Elle decided in her senior year of undergrad to study and presumably take the June LSAT, get accepted to Harvard, and show up in Cambridge with her bedazzled chihuahua a few months later. Does Harvard have a policy for even accepting applications this late? I don’t think so.

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Now getting into Elle’s study regimen, she makes some very odd choices. She doesn’t have a tutor or take a class, which not everybody is able to do for the exam, but designer-brand wearing, Elle Woods from Bell Air probably can. Instead, she enlists the help of her sorority sisters. When her sisters first discover that Elle has decided to take the LSAT, they stumble upon Elle sitting on her bedroom floor, surrounded by a pile of LSAT practice exams … reading through them. In my humble opinion, anyone looking at practice exams should at least have a pencil in their hand, preferably sitting at a desk. One of Elle’s friends assists with her prep by reading answer choices to a logic game OUT LOUD, presumably counting on Elle to memorize and analyze each answer choice without even seeing it on the page. When you see Elle taking a timed practice exam, her sorority sisters are simultaneously keeping time for the exam and exercising to a workout video on full volume. I can only guess that Elle’s phenomenal score increase had something to do with these distractions being absent during her actual exam.

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On her official exam, Elle has to be working from the world’s tiniest desk. My theory is that they didn’t even have desks (you don’t see any desks throughout the scene) and you can see a girl sitting behind Elle just holding her exam up to her face to write. It’s the test center of nightmares.

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Finally, Elle must inexplicably wait for her LSAT score to arrive in the mail. Didn’t they have email back in 2001? As she announces her triumph over the LSAT to her sorority, every single sorority sister is ready with confetti and silly string to shoot into the air, before they carry Elle off on their shoulders. It certainly put my own score release to shame.

Overall, Elle Woods may not give us a roadmap to LSAT success, but she has contributed some inspiration and excitement to the study of law that I believe many LSAT students can really use. And for that reason, I certainly hope Legally Blonde 3 continues in the same spirit.

2 Responses

  1. Aaron Cohn says:

    Ahem. Old LSAT instructor alert.

    Yes, we had email. But….

    I graduated high school in 2001, so I took the SAT in 2000. Scores definitely came through the good old-fashioned snail mail. If you were impatient, you could pay extra to call in and get your scores read to you by a robo-voice.

    We had email and the internet, but high-speed internet hadn’t quite became a standard item yet. My family still had dial-up. My impression was that most people I knew did, too. When I went to college it was quite a novelty to have an ethernet jack in my room with high-speed internet ready and waiting. College applications could be done online but mailing in a paper application was still a perfectly normal way to do it.

    I don’t know when they started emailing LSAT scores. Maybe they already were doing it back then. It wouldn’t surprise me if LSAC was a little bit ahead of the College Board in that regard. But it would have been pretty consistent with the era to assume they would come by mail.

    Otherwise, love it and agree completely about the other ways in which the LSAT prep depicted is ridiculous. Though I must say, they did a great job picking one of the notorious logic games of the time. Used and new Opera, Jazz, Rock, Soul, etc still drive people nuts.

  2. Jacqueline Uranga says:

    That’s a good point, Aaron. I probably forced myself to forget about the time before life revolved around checking emails. But now that it’s on my mind again, I can remember having to wait for my 2010 SATs to be sent by mail as well

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