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SCALES Program

SCALES (Summer College to Assess Legal Education Skills) is the 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.

  • 100 % of Fall 2021 SCALES students who passed the program enrolled in our JD program.

  • 0% of SCALES Class of 2020 students dropped out of law school.

Contact the Program Director

Samuel V. Jones
Associate Dean for SCALES & Inclusive Excellence
Professor of Law
(312) 386-2866

More Information


Required SCALES Courses Heading link

SCALES Grading Process Heading link

In Special Issues in Contracts Law and in Special Issues in Property Law, grades are assigned as follows:
A+ 4.01
A 4.00
A- 3.67
B+ 3.33
B 3.00
B- 2.67
C+ 2.33
C 2.00
C- 1.67
D 1.00
F 0.00
WF 0.00

To gain admission into UIC Law’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 Law 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.

  • 50 % Nearly half of all SCALES Class of 2020 students earned a CGPA of 3.00 or better in their first year of law school.

  • 0% of SCALES Class of 2020 students were academically dismissed from law school.

SCALES Learning Experience Heading link

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.