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One law school is giving applicants who don’t make the initial admissions cut a second chance to prove they have what it takes. And it’s doing it for free.

The Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law has introduced "Admission Through Performance," allowing rejected applicants to enroll in a free, four-week course on the Federal Rules of Evidence taught by Duncan faculty. If the applicants do well, they can earn a spot in next year’s 1L class.

"Standardized tests have been difficult for students at all levels of education, including the [Law School Admission Test]," interim dean Parham Williams said. "The mission at LMU and its law school centers on service to underserved populations in Southern Appalachia. The Admission Through Performance is yet another way [the law school] is staying true to its mission."

Several other law schools offer so-called conditional admission programs. "Most of those other programs charge something, but we aren’t charging anything for the course or the textbook," associate dean for academics April Meldrum said. "We expect that many of the students will not succeed, so we wanted to make sure that we weren’t taking advantage of them."

Duncan, located in Knoxville, Tenn., will host three free LSAT preparation workshops for those planning to sit for the June administration of the test.

Law schools nationally saw a 25 percent drop in applicants over the past two years, but Duncan’s difficulties have been exacerbated by its lack of ABA accreditation. The ABA in late 2011 denied its initial accreditation bid, prompting a lawsuit that the school later dropped. Duncan has since reapplied for accreditation and a decision could come as soon as December, Meldrum said.

However, this year’s crop of 77 graduates—the school’s first—will be eligible to sit only for the Tennessee bar exam. (They would have been able to take the bar exam in any state had the school won ABA accreditation.)

During the litigation with the ABA, administrators said that the accreditation denial had hurt enrollment numbers and caused some students to transfer out.

"At the same time, our continued pursuit of ABA accreditation has enabled those looking for a law school to see that we are working towards meeting the standards and accreditation," Meldrum said.

The school hopes to enroll a class of just 30 students next year, she said.

To participate in the Admissions Through Performance program, prospects must already have applied to the law school and been denied, and must have scored 135 or higher on the LSAT and earned an undergraduates grade-point average of at least 2.0.

The free evidence course starts on July 11, and students must score at least a 70 on the 100-point final exam to gain admission to the law school proper. The class is open only to students in the Admission Through Performance program. Duncan projects that between 40 and 60 percent of participants will perform well enough to earn a seat in next year’s 1L class.

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com. For more of The National Law Journal’s law school coverage, visit: http://www.facebook.com/NLJLawSchools.

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