In the summer of 2021, Legal Assistants Alisha Bowen and Luz Lopez Rosas envisioned a mentorship program for non-attorney staff and wanted to include an LSAT prep course. As women of color, they understand the disproportionate barriers faced by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in becoming attorneys. MMLA agreed to offer the course in the Fall of 2021.
Staff Attorney Law Schuelke, who designed and taught Legal Aid’s first LSAT prep course, shares his insight and experience.
How did you get involved with Legal Aid’s LSAT prep course?
I found out about the idea to incorporate LSAT training into the mentorship program early in the planning process. I offered to develop and teach a complete LSAT prep course as well as provide one-on-one tutoring. MMLA agreed to the plan. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) partnered with us to license the official test content at a substantially reduced rate.
What are your views on LSAT test preparation industry and process, more generally?
I am very much against test preparation in general. It is a $1.2 Billion/year industry that functions largely to reinforce societal inequities – those individuals who are already most advantaged get to skew the system even further in their favor. Since we can’t eliminate the test prep industry, the next best solution is to give more people access to it. The MMLA LSAT prep course gives us the opportunity to push back against the harm that is being done by the test prep industry, in a small but tangible way. I love it because it gives me the opportunity to direct my skills and passion toward balancing things and being part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Can you talk about your goals in designing the curriculum?
I had two goals: 1) Cover the material tested by the LSAT in a way that will lead to improved scores; and 2) Build critical thinking skills that will benefit students long after they’ve taken the test. I try to build the content in a way that is more generalizable to the broader skills that will benefit students in law school, as an attorney, and in their everyday lives. I want my students to leave my course with the tools and skills to be smarter workers, more savvy consumers, and better citizens.
You’ve been an LSAT prep instructor and tutor for many years. How does this course differ from other test prep options?
The biggest difference that I’ve noticed is the goals of the students. Oftentimes, LSAT students just want to get into the highest ranked law school they can get into so they can get the best job and make the most money. These students, in contrast, are focused on obtaining the opportunity to get the job training they need so they can be great attorneys and contribute more to their community. It’s really refreshing and humbling.
What benefits and challenges have you observed for students taking this course?
As far as benefits that I’ve observed for the students in the course, I love to see students grow in confidence, not just in their test taking and critical thinking ability, but also in their commitment to pursuing a career in public interest law.
The biggest challenge that I’ve observed students overcome is managing to take the course while they juggle a full-time job and often family obligations. The course is a big commitment (at least 10-15 hours/week including homework) and I’m proud of the students for their commitment to invest in themselves.
What would you like to change or improve?
I’d like to bring in guest speakers to talk more about the admissions process and about how to succeed in law school. Ultimately, our goal is for these individuals to become successful attorneys, and the LSAT is just one step in that bigger process. There are other areas where I think we can help on that journey, and I’d love for the course to grow into something more holistic.
Schuelke hopes that MMLA can continue to expand the course, possibly to other legal aid organizations and partners. LSAT scores affect admission rates, school opportunities, and scholarship amounts, so even a small improvement makes a big difference in a life. The enduring vision of the course is to cultivate a judicial system that accurately reflects the citizenry, one new attorney at a time.