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Here are some helpful tips to help you get through the admissions process and the experience of attending law school.
While registering for and attending law school can be challenging for everyone, those with disabilities typically face additional hurdles to becoming lawyers.
“Applying to law school requires strong self-advocacy and patience that puts a unique burden on students with disabilities,” observes Peter Blanck, university professor of Syracuse University in New York and the chairman of the university’s Burton Blatt Institute, a worldwide advocacy group for those with disabilities.
Following the applicant’s particular limitations, these burdens could be various things, from time and stress to practical barriers.
Law schools are increasingly attuned to these concerns. The range of accommodations available expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to new remote learning options and American Bar Association-accredited, fully online J.D. programs.
Naturally, those with disabilities might differ in their challenges. Some may be less apparent impairments like learning or cognitive impairments or mental health issues. Some, such as applicants that are veterans, could be impacted by other interconnected problems.
Accessibility for disabled students to the LSAT
The LSAT can be a significant obstacle to law school students with disabilities. The test requires constant concentration on reading, attentiveness to the task, and logic problems that can be solved using visual diagrams.
Thankfully that the test is now more inclusive since it’s an online test that can be taken at home and administered online, this is because the Law School Admission Council, also known as LSAC, has ratified a plan to modify the LSAT in light of recent legal proceedings to better assist those who have disabilities.
LSAC provides a variety of choices to accommodate applicants taking exams like the LSAT or LSAT Writing tests. Some examples include extended testing, extended breaks, additional breaks, and alternative formats for testing like pencil-and-paper and Braille written tests.
LSAC has established procedures to determine the eligibility requirements for each kind of accommodation. Each test taker’s case is treated as an individual.
Candidates interested in accommodations for testing must first read the details found on the LSAC website and within their individual online LSAC accounts. Requests for accommodations can be made directly via their account. They can also contact an expert team of customer relations experts via email or phone to get advice or assistance.
When a person submits an online request for accommodations within their LSAC account, The system will offer instructions step-by-step. This process lets applicants submit a personal declaration of need and any other documentation.
After submitting a request, applicants should go through the version of their file accessible via the LSAT Status page of their online account to ensure that it is correct and correct. Candidates can submit modifications or additions up to the time that the deadline for these requests is reached.
There is a simplified application procedure for applicants with the required eligibility requirements and who have been granted accommodation for admission tests with standardized formats. If you have taken the LSAT several times, the accommodations you receive for your test will automatically be approved for the next test without making a new request.
Don’t be concerned if your request for accommodation due to disability is not granted. Contact LSAC’s customer relations specialists to resolve your questions.
Disclosure of Disabilities as a Law School Applicant
It is not legal in law institutions to make discriminatory remarks against students or applicants with disabilities. But, students may have difficulty understanding how much information they wish to disclose to law schools about their particular situation.
It’s ultimately an individual decision. Most applicants will discuss the difficulties they’ve had to overcome within their statement of personal or diversity. Some may also write about their experience in a supplement to explain the reasons for the academic gap or inequities within their education.
Applicants need to be aware that law schools do not see accommodations for testing as a negative thing, and there is no requirement to make them public. LSAC doesn’t provide information to law schools on the candidates who received accommodations. For instance, if you had extra time for taking the test, it will not be included in your test score, nor will it influence your admission process.
Disability Accommodations at Law School
As with other higher education institutions that public funds fund, Law schools are legally obliged to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities.
The ABA is involved in the process of accreditation for law schools and site inspections to make sure that law schools accredited by the ABA provide reasonable accommodations that do not reduce the academic or performance standards or cause excessive administrative or financial burdens.
The accommodations offered to depend on the student’s diagnosis, background, and needs. Examples include longer duration of exams or written assignments, using the computer or a private room for exams, reduced work, or a designated note-taker or recording lectures.
Individuals interested in seeking accommodations should inquire with the law school’s dean for students and disability service coordinator. It could be necessary to submit a written request supported by a medical professional’s diagnosis or proof of any prior accommodations received. The school might implement an evaluation process based on the type of accommodation sought.
David Jaffe, associate dean of student affairs at American University’s Washington College of Law in the District of Columbia, advises: “Start the process early. Be prepared for all the requirements you think you’ll or might need, and then lay them on the table to understand how they should (or could not) be dealt with. Find out if a student or recently graduated with similar needs is willing to talk to you about how they have dealt with their problems.”
In the event of a disability or disability, Jaffe says, “one or more visits to the law school if possible in advance of committing might be beneficial.”
Students with disabilities in law should be prepared to regularly communicate with the appropriate personnel in their law schools on the challenges they face and the accommodations required.
“For a law student with one or more disabilities, not raising a concern in a timely fashion can result in a buildup of academic challenges,” Jaffe states. “The process of creating and maintaining a level playing field must be an iterative one, revisited as often as needed to ensure equitable outcomes.”
Programs, Resources, and Services for Law Students With Disabilities
There are a variety of legal resources for students who have disabilities. An excellent place to begin would be to visit the ABA Commission on Disability Rights and its online resources, including a list of disability-related programs available at each accredited law school.
The National Disabled Law Students Association is a defender and advocates on behalf of students at law schools and law school graduates who have disabilities. The organization has members and partners from fifty law schools across the country. Much like the ABA, the association can answer any specific questions applicants who are disabled may have the law school process, securing employment, and getting to the bar.
Certain law schools have special programs or centers that focus on advocacy or rights for disabled people. Some of them that are the most well-known centers are those at the Burton Blatt Institute and the Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy, and Innovation at Loyola Law School in California.
Even when a law school offers only a few courses on the subject, you can look for appropriate practicums, internships, research opportunities, and other opportunities.
“A complete absence of substantive courses, relatable internships, and a knowledgeable career services office may be signs that the law school will not be the best overall fit,” Jaffe suggests. Jaffe. “Ask if there are alumni who have pursued disability law, and then meet with them to gain a perspective on the ease or challenge of finding their path at the particular school.”
Law students may have disabilities or are interested in disability law. It’s important not to ignore the forest for trees.
“Just be the best lawyer you can be,” Blanck suggests. “In a competitive legal environment, it is important to have a basic grounding to be a well-rounded lawyer.”