SCALES (Summer College to Assess Legal Education Skills) is UIC John Marshall Law School’s performance-evaluation-based admission program. For 120 years, we have provided promising law school applicants with an opportunity to obtain a legal education.
A wide body of research indicates that LSAT and undergraduate GPA are limited predictors of law school success. Indeed, we have found that strict reliance on LSAT and undergraduate GPA in the admission process may exclude scores of uniquely talented and deserving individuals from the study and practice of law.
Our SCALES program provides individuals who have records of achievement, but who did not gain admission through our traditional process, with an opportunity to demonstrate they possess the requisite skills and potential to succeed in our JD program and the practice of law. Candidates who successfully complete SCALES are offered admission into the JD program for the fall, or at their option, spring semester.
SCALES candidates are required to complete a rigorous and specialized program of instruction and assessment by members of our full-time and adjunct faculty. The program provides each candidate with a culturally responsive learning environment rooted in high expectations of academic achievement. Students are assessed on their dedication and aptitude for increased levels of legal instruction.
SCALES typically runs for approximately eight weeks, starting in late May, Monday through Thursday, between 6–9 p.m. Friday evenings are primarily reserved for faculty-candidate conferences, self-study, personal legal research, or voluntary small-group learning activities. Throughout the SCALES program, candidates are required to evince competency by successfully completing a series of intellectually stringent assignments and assessments in each required course.
Required SCALES Courses
Legal Writing Description
In Legal Writing, candidates are introduced to the tools used to conduct legal analysis and research. Candidates are required to demonstrate competency in analyzing complex fact patterns using legal rules gleaned from a myriad of sources, including case law, statutes, administrative regulations, and secondary legal authorities; draft responsive and persuasive legal arguments; and articulate ideas in essays, paragraphs, and memoranda with clarity and sound legal reasoning.
Academic Skills Description
In Academic Skills, candidates are introduced to federal and state court systems; various categories and sources of legal authority; foundational legal principles; and basic lawyering skills, i.e., note taking, outlining, case briefing, stress management, and legal reasoning. Candidates are required to demonstrate proficiency in:
- identifying the legal issues, rules, material facts, and reasoning courts employ to render legal opinions;
- differentiating between factual disputes, definitional disputes, and consistency disputes relative to legal opinions;
- negotiating multiple-choice and essay exam questions under time constraints;
- employing analogical reasoning; and
- demonstrating attention to detail and precision when analyzing legal rules and hypothetical scenarios.
Special Issues in Contracts Description
In Special Issues in Contracts, candidates are introduced to various jurisprudential principles that underlie certain types of contracts, explains some public policies that influence contractual relations, and examines some difficulties parties may encounter when attempting to enforce certain contractual arrangements. Before each class, candidates are required to prepare written or typed case briefs for assigned cases and develop a sound understanding of the reading assignment.
Candidates are required to demonstrate:
- improved analytical skills and proficiency constructing persuasive legal arguments;
- an aptitude for creative analysis and original thought;
- the capacity to articulate legal ideas, a court’s legal reasoning, and complex fact patterns with increased confidence and efficiency;
- proficiency crafting legal counterarguments;
- sound active-listening skills, as shown by their responses to the professor’s questioning or arguments presented by their colleagues during class; and
- sound multiple-choice, short-answer, and essay exam skills.
Special Issues in Property Law Description
In Special Issues in Property Law, candidates are introduced to various types of property rights and interests; some of the legal principles underlying how property rights are acquired, transferred, and possessed; landlord and tenant law; and how public policy and social morality may influence property law.
Candidates must evince:
- refined analytical skills, as demonstrated by their case brief presentations during class;
- an aptitude for creative analysis and original thought;
- the capacity to articulate legal ideas, arguments, and complex fact patterns with increased confidence and efficiency;
- proficiency developing legal arguments;
- sound active-listening skills, as demonstrated by their response to the professor’s questioning and arguments presented by fellow candidates during class; and
- proficiency answering complex multiple-choice and essay exam questions.
SCALES Grading Process
SCALES Grading Process
To gain admission into UIC John Marshall Law School’s JD program, SCALES candidates must “pass” their Legal Writing course and Academic Skills course, and achieve at least a 2.67 cumulative GPA in the Special Issues in Contracts Law and Special Issues in Property Law Grade courses. The grades candidates receive in SCALES are used strictly to determine eligibility for admission. SCALES grades do not result in the award of academic credit or academic honors.
UIC John Marshall Law School anticipates enrolling approximately 45 SCALES candidates for Summer 2020. The Law School has allotted up to 20 seats in its Fall 2020 entering JD class for SCALES candidates. Seats in the Fall 2020 JD class will be awarded based on the SCALES class ranking from 1 through 20; each candidate in the top 20 must also meet the SCALES minimum passing GPA. Candidates who rank 21 to 24 may, at the discretion of the Law School, be offered admission into the Spring 2021 entering JD class if they meet or exceed the minimum SCALES passing GPA.
SCALES Learning Experience
Success in SCALES is largely conditioned upon the candidate’s progress throughout the program from start to finish. The SCALES faculty will provide candidates with feedback regarding their performance throughout the program with the expectation that candidates will demonstrate considerable improvement.
In addition to authoring case briefs and performing various writing and analytical exercises, candidates will be required to present an oral argument in a courtroom setting and write a reflection paper in response to an essay or legal opinion. The oral argument exercise affords candidates an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to mount legal arguments persuasively and authoritatively under intellectually tense and highly formal circumstances.
The reflection paper grants candidates an opportunity to demonstrate their capacity to think and write, critically and creatively, free of direction and oversight. In a previous SCALES class, candidates were provided the opportunity to critically examine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous essay, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (“Letter”), which is widely considered one of the most highly regarded essays ever written. Some questions candidates chose to address included: (1) How does the Letter inform the reader’s understanding of the relationship between law and morality? (2) How did Dr. King orient specific arguments toward an underlying theory? (3) How does the Letter effectively persuade readers to accept the underlying dichotomy between breaking the law and respecting the law?
The SCALES classroom experience is interactive rather than based on lectures. Each class session is designed to provide candidates with an opportunity to demonstrate the depth of their preparation and capacity for increased challenges through the exchange of well-reasoned ideas and observations flowing from the candidate’s analysis of assigned reading material. The SCALES faculty will routinely challenge a candidate’s comprehension of the assigned reading material with the intent to improve and test the candidate’s range of understanding.
Without question, our SCALES expectations and standards are demanding. Some candidates enter the program without a realistic view of the level of excellence and preparedness required to succeed. Historically, some candidates have felt the academic requirements were too arduous or unattainable. But nothing could be further from the case. The study of law is wrought with demanding and unforgiving challenges. SCALES is no exception. It is, therefore, incumbent upon every candidate to make wise choices regarding their time and work ethic, and to arrive for SCALES fully prepared to exhibit the requisite dedication and competency necessary to succeed in the program. Every task, assignment, and assessment has a purpose and is crucial to the faculty’s ability to assess the candidate’s potential to succeed in our JD program. For this reason, candidates must complete 100% of all SCALES assignments and assessments to be considered for JD admission.
We encourage candidates who are extended an invitation to participate in SCALES to evaluate carefully their motivation, level of commitment, and ability to attend all SCALES classes and complete—outside of class—all assignments. We understand that many candidates will be working full time and have family and other commitments. But for the eight weeks of SCALES, candidates should be prepared to spend not only three hours per evening in class, but approximately 25 hours per week studying outside class.
By the end of the SCALES program, many candidates find that they have learned just as much about themselves as they did about the study of law. Indeed, most candidates who fully dedicate themselves to the program recount having attained a state of intellectual readiness, analytical depth, and confidence that far exceeds anything they experienced in previous professional endeavors. We consider it an honor and privilege to have the requisite expertise and vision to offer promising applicants this unique opportunity.
SCALES graduates have gone on to succeed in the JD program. Some have graduated at the very top of their class, and many are now in thriving legal and business careers.