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Partnership with AccessLex expands Willamette Law’s direct admissions pathways

by Jessica Rotter,

Willamette University campus
As part of the College of Law’s focus on ensuring transparency and inclusion in the admissions process, the College’s focus has been on expanding direct admission pathways. A new partnership with AccessLex and its LexScholars Post-Baccalaureate Program (LexPostBacc) both aligns with that focus and increases opportunities for underrepresented law school applicants. 

A central focus for Assistant Dean of Admissions, Leah Straley, is to find opportunities to make the admissions process more accessible for prospective students, in particular those that may not be familiar with how a law school admissions process works. The hope, Straley says, is to “give students the opportunity to succeed even if they did not have LSAT prep books, financial literacy resources, or prior access to  law school.” When AccessLex invited law schools to partner with their LexPostBacc program, it was a seamless fit into Straley’s efforts to increase accessible pathways to law school. 

LexPostBacc is a pathway program designed to prepare aspiring law students from underrepresented backgrounds for the rigors of law school. Applicants that meet the program's specified criteria are offered deferred admission to law school, a partial scholarship, and a one-year law school preparatory program. 

The LexPostBacc program first began as a dream that AccessLex’s Executive Director, Aaron Taylor, had when he was doing admissions work. Taylor shared that he would “have to agonize over really difficult decisions to let someone in or not based on if they were a terrific candidate but their LSAT scores were low.” He began to think about “what would happen if we could expose people to the skills and information they need to be successful from day one. They could walk in the doors of law school and already know what they needed and were not trying to play catch up.” From this dream, LexPostBacc developed into a one-year preparatory program that covered LSAT prep, financial literacy, and a deep dive into basic law school subjects such as torts, contracts, case briefings, and exam prep. Over the course of roughly 12 months, students become well-versed in what it means to attend law school and what to consider following law school. 

Straley hopes that prospective students will consider what a beneficial opportunity this program could be for them. She commented, “It not only grants them admission to law school, and provides a scholarship to help offset the cost of school but the prep courses will also allow them to be better prepared for the rigors of law school.” 

The College of Law currently has one student enrolled in the LexPostBacc program and has set a goal of enrolling a minimum of three to four students per year as a part of its larger direct admission pathway goals. Straley shared that, “we get dedicated and successful students out of these direct admissions pathways. These are the students who really want to improve themselves and have clear goals.” 

Following the first year of the program, AccessLex and the College of Law are looking toward the future and how to continue to open doors for underrepresented students and really disrupt traditional law school admissions. For his part, Taylor hopes this becomes an integral part of how law school admissions operates and that students want to attend schools because they have opportunities like the LexPostBacc program.

For prospective students considering whether the LexPostBacc program could be right for them, Taylor encouraged people to “just consider it. Sometimes the greatest opportunities come from sources you had never even considered before, you just have to be open to it.” 

Straley was quick to add that, “I would love everyone to be able to take advantage of a program like this before law school. The information and tools you get from this year-long program will stick with you even after law school.” The College of Law’s participation in the LexPostBacc program marks an important step in a more transparent and equitable law school admissions process.

About Willamette University College of Law

Willamette University College of Law was the first law school to open in the Pacific Northwest. Building on deep historic roots, we focus with pride on educating the next generation of problem-solving lawyers and leaders. Our location in Salem, Oregon, directly across the street from the Oregon State Capitol and Supreme Court, cannot be matched in the region. Our thought-leading scholars advance and promote our shared responsibility to make a difference in society, placing justice, fairness, and equality at the heart of everything we do.

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