Will AI Upend the Law School Admissions Process, or Usher in an Era of Equity?

September 21, 2023

With the 2023 admissions cycle quickly approaching, law schools are considering applicants’ use of artificial intelligence in the admissions process, particularly large language models (LLMs) in drafting writing samples. Should law school admissions embrace AI or bar its use to protect the traditional application process? What would embracing AI look like? Is barring it practical?  

Law schools use essays as a metric to gauge an applicant’s writing skills and as a chance to learn about the prospective student beyond their resume and transcript. The personal statement and short answer prompts allow applicants to communicate their soft skills and thoughtfully reflect on formative experiences. However, applicants’ ability to outsource responses may leave admissions offices wary of their authenticity and doubtful of their legitimacy as an accurate measure of writing ability. Consequently, LLMs may threaten the reliability and integrity of the law school admissions process.  

On the other hand, AI is the new reality, and the legal field is embracing it. Attorneys widely use it for proofreading, research, and e-discovery, and many law schools offer courses on the intersection of AI and the law. Moreover, it could provide broader access to resources, such as editing assistance. Applicants regularly engage what can often be expensive consultants to edit drafts and brainstorm ideas, and LLMs can offer similar support to applicants who are unable to purchase such services. Therefore, LLMs may have a democratizing effect on the application process.  

Consequently, LLMs may threaten the reliability and integrity of the law school admissions process.  

Most law schools have so far been silent on AI during the admissions process. However, the University of Michigan Law School and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law have issued clear policies. Interestingly, the schools have come down on opposing sides of the issue.

The University of Michigan has explicitly proscribed the use of AI and requires applicants to certify that they did not use the technology in completing their application. However, the school still allows applicants to consult “pre-law advisors, mentors, friends, or others for basic proofreading assistance and general feedback and critiques.” To identify illicit use of AI, Michigan’s Admissions Office plans to compare applicants’ essays with their Law School Admissions Test writing sample to evaluate whether the writing styles are consistent. According to Michigan, its policy and thorough reading process demonstrate its commitment to producing “A-plus writer[s].” 

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law has elected to permit the use of AI during the admissions process on the condition that applicants “use the technology responsibly” and certify that the information they submit in their application is true. The law school’s decision reflects its “innovative mindset” and “comprehensive approach” to embracing AI, and its belief that “[g]enerative AI is a tool available to nearly everyone, regardless of their economic situation, that can help them submit a strong application when used responsibly.” Because so few law schools have made clear their position on using AI in the admissions process, it is impossible to predict how applicants will use it this admissions cycle. And with no reliable means of detection, it will be difficult for law schools to enforce restrictive policies. The uncertainty raises questions about how AI and guidelines governing its use will reshape the application process and affect the composition of incoming classes. However, given the virtually undetectable nature of LLMs, we may never truly know the extent of AI’s influence on the admissions process.

Alissa Masini

Alissa is a second-year law student from New Jersey. She earned her undergraduate degree from Colgate University, where she majored in Political Science and played on the Women’s Lacrosse team. Prior to law school, Alissa worked as a paralegal at a New York City-based law firm. At UNC Law, she is a member of the Broun National Trial Team and a North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology staff member. In her free time, she enjoys doing yoga and playing with her three nieces.