Guest Post — Jay Rosner: The LSAT vs. the GRE: May They Both Lose

The LSAT vs. the GRE:  May They Both Lose

The monopoly that the LSAT has enjoyed for decades in law school admissions appears to be eroding.  What does that mean for Native American law school aspirants, and for the law schools that desire to increase their number of Native students?

Up until yesterday, the fight to be able to use the GRE in law admissions instead of the LSAT had been led by the University of Arizona Law School, which had accepted a small number of students with GRE scores.  A few other law schools had been studying the possibility, but no other law school joined Arizona until yesterday, when Harvard Law announced that they too would consider the GRE from applicants.

For the foreseeable future, the impact on law admissions will be symbolic only.  Arizona and Harvard will each only accept a small number of applicants based upon their GRE scores, and until a few dozen more law schools join them, the total number of applicants affected may be a few hundred out of tens of thousands.  So, while the current discussion may have substantial implications years down the road, today’s applicants will find this a niche play at best.

The LSAT vs. GRE discussion will likely generate more heat than light.   Folks will look at their differences, which are worth noting:

  • The LSAT is a pencil and paper test, while the GRE is delivered on computer;
  • The LSAT is offered only 4 times per year, while the GRE is offered almost continuously throughout the year;
  • ¾ of the LSAT’s bubble sections, generating its score, are verbal, and only ¼ (one section, informally called “Games”) involves some math-related sensibilities, while fully ½ of the GRE bubble sections are straightforward math, and 1/2 are verbal; and,
  • Under the current rules, a student must report an LSAT score to a law school if he/she has taken it, so only students who have taken the GRE and not the LSAT will have their GRE solely considered.

What most LSAT vs. GRE comparisons will miss are the profound and important ways that these two tests are similar, and both deeply problematic.  Both are created by psychometricians using the same methods, so they share these significant characteristics:

  • They both generate significantly disparate results by gender, race and ethnicity, with Native Americans, Latinos and African Americans scoring much lower on both, on average, than whites and Asian Americans, and females scoring lower than males;
  • The foundation for these disparities could be revealed by item level data, which are statistics on individual test questions that test developers routinely refuse to release because they would expose the way that tests are designed to solidify and maintain those disparities;
  • Scores for both are affected by inequitable access to high-quality, often expensive, test prep, with groups like Native Americans penalized because Native students often can’t afford to pay for test prep courses; and,
  • What equity activists need to do is try to reduce, and even eliminate, the weight that any bubble test is given in any competitive admissions (or financial aid, etc.) decision.

While the last concept may seem fanciful in the law school admissions world, we now have many highly selective undergraduate schools, like Wake Forest, Wesleyan, Mount Holyoke, etc., that have years of successful experience with test-optional admissions policies that serve to reduce the bubble-test burden faced by URM students.

Any Native educators supporting either the LSAT or the GRE are, I contend, missing the forest for the trees.   Bubble tests are designed in a way that Native students are placed at yet another disadvantage in admissions, and these tests should be made optional until they are eliminated entirely.

It should be noted that multistate bar scores will tend to correlate with LSAT (or GRE) scores, since all bubble tests have high correlations with other bubble tests.  That’s not a reason to keep the LSAT; that’s a reason to make sure that all Native bar takers have the benefit of high-quality bar-prep courses to leverage their ability to get their best score on the multistate.


Harvard Law School Profile of Elizabeth Reese, Who Graduates Thursday!

Here is “Elizabeth Reese: The making of a modern warrior.”


Reese was raised 20 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, as a member of the Pueblo of Nambé tribe. The village there is small and old—it dates back to the 14th century—as is the tribe that makes the reservation home. Some 1,100 members of the 2,000-person Nambé tribe live on the 20,000-acre reservation, which is filled with cottonwoods, juniper, and scrub oak, and surrounded by sandstone and mountains and river. Such isolation has helped the community maintain its culture and traditions.

Reese was raised squarely in that community and in that culture, although she’s always felt she belonged in two very different worlds. She grew being called Elizabeth but also Yunpovi (which means Willow Flower in the Tewa language). She may have been surrounded by scrub pine, but her father read her Homer as a child, which helped her navigate traditionally elite white spaces more easily than she might have otherwise.


As an undergraduate she developed a background in political theory, which led her to England and the University of Cambridge. There she earned a Master of Philosophy in political thought and intellectual history and did work on Indian political theory. She counts herself as one of the first Native Americans to attend the university and one of the first scholars there to focus on Indian ideas.

Reese’s commitment to the study—and protection—of Native concerns led her to Harvard Law School and shaped her focus during her three years. She built visibility, programming, and recruitment as a leader in the HLS Native American Law Students Association. She helped to write a District Court amicus brief intervening in a tribal water jurisdiction case through the Native Amicus Briefing Project. She also served as a congressional intern and a fellow for the Senate Judiciary Committee, and interned at the Department of Justice in the civil rights division.


After graduation Reese will clerk for Judge Amul R. Thapar at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Late in the year she’ll head to Washington, D.C., as a Public Service Venture Fund Redstone Fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The breadth of cases she’ll be part of—from litigating voting rights on one side of the country to school desegregation on the other side—excites her.

While Reese hopes to spend the early part of her career working on civil rights cases that affect the lives of people of color in the U.S—including her family members—she also hopes to someday practice Indian law. After all it’s the law, she says, that determines whether or not Indian tribes survive.

“It can’t be understated how fragile our future is—how our survival is still something we have to fight for,” says Reese. “Unlike a lot of other groups or identities, this is our only homeland. Our culture exists nowhere else in the world if we fail to ensure its survival here. I take that challenge very seriously and hope I can do all I can to protect my tribe and my people and our sovereignty.”

The Honorable Allie Greenleaf Maldonado and Prof. Angela Riley Honored in International Women’s Day Portrait Exhibit at Harvard Law School

Cambridge, Mass, March 3, 2016 – The Honorable Allie Greenleaf Maldonado and Prof. Angela Riley are among 25 inspiring women who will be honored during Harvard Law School’s third Annual International Women’s Day Celebration, organized by the Harvard Women’s Law Association (WLA) and Harvard Law and International Development Society (LIDS). Judge Maldonado is the Chief Judge of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB). Judge Maldonado is a Co-Chair of the first Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum, and a nationally recognized expert on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA).

Honorees were selected from nominations submitted by Harvard Law School students, faculty and staff.

As part of the celebrations, Judge Maldonado will be featured in a portrait exhibit, which will be displayed in the halls of the law school from February 29th- March 11th.

In addition to the portrait exhibit, the WLA and LIDS will be hosting a lunch event recognizing the honorees.  The event will take place at the law school on Tuesday, March 8th from 12:00-2:00pm.

Speakers at the March 8 event include Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts; Mindy J. Roseman, Director of International Programs and Gruber Program on Global Justice and Women’s Rights at Yale Law School; and Roxanne Conlin, one of the first women ever to be named U.S. Attorney, and the first female president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

More information about the event is available at

The website includes portraits of all this year’s honorees, as well as honorees in previous years.

For more information, contact: Anna Andreeva ( and Alice Prinsley (

Agenda for Harvard Law School Tribal Courts Symposium — This Thursday and Friday

Tribal Courts and the Federal System

Cambridge, MA

November 8th and 9th, 2012

Tribal Courts and Criminal Law: Assessing the Work of the Tribal Law and Order Commission

November 8, 2012

8:30–8:45 am              Introductions and Overview of Conference

Robert Anderson, Oneida Nation Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law

School, and Professor of Law, University of Washington School of Law

Seth Davis, Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School

8:45–9:30 am              Introducing the Work of the Tribal Law and Order Commission (TLOC)

Commission Chairman Troy Eid

9:30–11:30 am                        Improving Criminal Law Enforcement in Indian Country

Professor Carole Goldberg, Professor of Law and Vice-Provost, UCLA; Honorable Theresa Pouley, Tulalip Tribal Court and TLOC Commissioner; Kristen Carpenter, Professor, University of Colorado School of Law

What are the major issues that arise in adjudication of crimes covered by the Major Crimes Act and Indian Country Crimes Act?  What is the relationship between tribal and state authorities in jurisdictions where Congress has authorized state criminal jurisdiction within Indian country?  Who is an Indian for federal criminal jurisdiction purposes?

11:30 am–12:15 pm    Break

12:15–1:45 pm                        Lunch and Keynote Address

Honorable Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior

2:00–3:30 pm              Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction:  Theory and Practice

Angela Riley, Professor of Law, UCLA; Professor Ron Whitener, University of Washington Public Defense Clinic; Anita Fineday, Annie E. Casey Foundation (former White Earth Tribal Judge)

What are the major jurisdictional issues that tribal courts confront?  How do tribal courts approach sentencing alternatives?  What should be the long-term plan for strengthening tribal courts?  What is being done to provide defense for indigent defendants?

3:30–3:45 pm              Break

3:45–5:00 pm              Intergovernmental Cooperation Among Tribes, States, and the United States

Robert Anderson, Oneida Nation Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School and Professor of Law, University of Washington School of Law; Carole Goldberg, Professor of Law and Vice-Provost, UCLA; Wenona Singel, Associate Professor of Law, Michigan State University

What are the legal and practical relationships between federal, state, and tribal courts and law enforcement officials in the area of criminal law?  What are the opportunities for retrocession at the state level to return criminal jurisdiction to Indian tribes and the federal government?  How can cooperative public safety agreements be a solution to jurisdictional complications in Indian Country?

Tribal Civil Jurisdiction and Sources of Tribal Law

November 9

8:30–8:45 am              Introductions and Overview of Day 2

Robert Anderson, Oneida Nation Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law

School, and Professor of Law, University of Washington School of Law

Seth Davis, Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School

8:45–9:45 am              Tribal Civil Jurisdiction

Judge William C. Canby, Jr., Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

9:45–10:15 am                        Break

10:15–11:45 am                      Tribal Civil Law Development

Judge Michael Petoskey, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians; Professor Matthew Fletcher, Michigan State School of Law; Julie Kane, General Counsel, Nez Perce Tribe; Seth Davis, Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School

How do tribal courts approach the task of developing common law?  To what extent do they focus on tribal norms and to what extent do they borrow from state or federal law?  How do tribal courts understand their relationship to tribal councils or other legislative bodies?  How do tribal courts relate to tribal executives?

11:45 am–12:00 pm    Break

12:00–1:30 pm                        Lunch and Closing Address

Honorable Hilary Tompkins, Solicitor, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., The Importance of Tribal Courts in the Federal System

FBA Announcement — Indian Law Section Members May View Nov. 8-9, 2012 Harvard Law School Indian Law Conference Online

More details on the Harvard conference here (HLS Conference Schedule FINAL)

From the FBA:

Dear Indian Law Section Members:

It is with great pleasure that we announce to you a new, free program offering from the Federal Bar Association. Indian Law Section member Professor Robert Anderson, currently serving as the Oneida Nation Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, has put together a fantastic two-day conference on Tribal Courts and the Federal System. The conference is set to take place in Cambridge, Massachusetts November 8 and 9, 2012, and features a number of tribal leaders and prominent Indian Law scholars and policy-makers. As a service to our members, the Indian Law Section is sponsoring live-streaming of this event via our website at Indian Law Section members will be able to enjoy the entirety of the two-day conference free via the internet broadcast.

A full conference agenda is attached, and also pasted below. This conference will bring together tribal judges and attorneys, tribal, state, and federal government policymakers, and scholars to explore issues Indian tribal courts currently face in criminal and civil enforcement, jurisdiction, and lawmaking. The first of its kind at Harvard Law School, the conference promises to provide expert dialogue on the latest developments in tribal civil and criminal jurisdiction and to increase awareness within the legal community of the unique place of tribal courts in the federal system.

During the first day, the conference will focus upon the work of the Tribal Law and Order Commission, which Congress established in the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. Because the Commission’s work focuses upon criminal jurisdiction, the panels on the first day will address criminal law enforcement in Indian Country, tribal criminal jurisdiction, and intergovernmental cooperation in criminal enforcement. We are fortunate to have the new Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn, to provide the keynote address. The second day will turn to tribal civil jurisdiction, with a half-day session on the federal common law rules affecting tribal adjudicatory and regulatory authority as well as a discussion of tribal lawmaking. The conference closes with an address from the Honorable Hilary Tompkins, Solicitor, U.S. Department of the Interior.

The conference will be an opportunity for tribal judges, attorneys, and officials to meet with federal and state judges and officials as well as academics for focused discussions of pressing issues in tribal civil and criminal theory and practice. We are delighted to be able to make this conference accessible to our membership around the country.

To access the live-streaming broadcast on the day of the event, Indian Law Section members should please visit Pre-registration is not necessary for this event. If you require assistance with your Section log-in credentials, please contact Sherwin Valerio at

This conference event replaces, on a trial basis, our annual D.C. Indian Law Conference, which we have traditionally offered in November. We are hopeful that our Section members will find this conference thought-provoking and meaningful and will also enjoy the opportunity to take advantage of this great programming from the comfort of your own homes or offices. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.


Jennifer Weddle, Indian Law Section Chair


Elena Kagan’s Remarks on the Navajo Judiciary in 2006

Very nice. I imagine soon-to-be-Justice Kagan’s words will be quoted time and again by tribal advocates:

At about four minutes in she describes the Navajo Judiciary and caseload, and then the money quote (at about 4:25):

“And the Navajo Nation’s judicial system is distinguished by quality as well as by scope.”

She then quoted at length from the Harvard Project from 1999 in awarding honors to the Navajo judiciary, noting:

“[The judiciary’s] innovative legal system is independent, fair, responsive, and consistent with the Nation’s culture and traditions.”

Must have RealPlayer to view.

Download here (near the bottom), or here:

April 12, 2006 – Remarks – Opening of Navajo Supreme Court Session

ICT Article on Elena Kagan Supreme Court Nomination

From ICT:

WASHINGTON – Conservative criticism of Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court was all but guaranteed.

But critiques are also coming from more unlikely sources, as a groundswell of progressive scholars question her past commitments to minorities. Of special interest to Indian country, her positions on tribal and Indian legal issues are unknown, and she has lacked engagement on some major Native topics.

Kagan, 50, was nominated by President Barack Obama May 10 to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. She currently serves as Solicitor General of the United States, the first woman to hold that post. Previously, President Bill Clinton appointed her as Associate White House Counsel.

Kagan has never been a judge, and she has published relatively few scholarly articles. Most analysts have predicted that she will likely be able to be confirmed by the Senate due, in part, to her non-controversial background. Her lack of public stances on hot-button issues, like abortion, is believed to have played a role in Obama’s selection of her.

Before serving in government, Kagan was the dean of Harvard Law School and a professor of law there. She was also previously a professor of law at the University of Chicago.

It’s her service as a leader at Harvard that’s got some minority advocates, including Native Americans, concerned.

Of the 32 tenured and tenure-track academic hires Kagan made while dean, a position she held from 2003 – 2009, only one was a minority, of Asian descent. Of the 32, seven were women. The rest were white males. None of Kagan’s hires were Native American.

Compared to other institutions of Harvard’s pedigree, Kagan’s hiring was lax in its inclusion of minorities. At the same time, she was credited with breaking a logjam at the institution in hiring conservative scholars.

Part of the hiring issues surrounding Kagan involve her failing to hire a permanent scholar to fill the Harvard Law School’s Oneida chair, which has received substantial financial support from the Oneida Indian Nation of New York. The position was created in 2003, under the condition that Harvard hire a full-time, tenured faculty member dedicated to Indian law.

Many Indian scholars were touted by tribes and Indian organizations during Kagan’s tenure as candidates to permanently hold the Oneida chair, but action never occurred.

“That is a bitter shame, since numerous American Indian law profs are objectively qualified to be tenured at Harvard,” said Matthew L.M. Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law Center at Michigan State University.
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