5 Things To Do After the July LSAT

The July LSAT is over!  Whether you’re applying to law school this fall or in future years, here are your next steps.

  1. Consider LSAT retake options. This is the only LSAT administration that will allow you to see your score, cancel it, and sign up for a free retake.  For a full consideration of ALL upcoming LSAT options–including timing for this fall’s applicants–revisit this post. Even though you don’t yet have results, now is a good time to consider your retake options so that you are ready to register as soon as scores are released.
  2. Get your letters of recommendation lined up. Have you already contacted your LOR writers and asked them to submit a letter for you? If not, do that now, because giving your writer all summer to write the letter is smart. Recent grads: Go ahead and approach your professors now, even if you don’t plan to apply for another year or two…having them submit their letter while they still remember you (and work here) is smart. Don’t wait until a super busy time for them–or come back to find that they’re retired, on medical leave, etc.–to ask. Here are some tips on getting great recommendations.
  3. Register for the Credential Assembly Service if you haven’t already. This is the account where your recommenders will send your letter–and they can’t write your letter until you set this up.  Click here for more information.
  4. Order your transcript(s) now if you aren’t taking summer classes. If you are taking summer classes, put a reminder on your calendar to order your transcript after August 12 (or Aug. 27 if you are a summer 2019 graduate). Note: You will need to order a transcript from every undergraduate institution where you took courses–even summer courses–so now is a good time to reach out to the registrar of any community colleges or schools from which you transferred. Here is where you order your UIUC transcript.
  5. Research law schools. The very first thing to consider is: What are your top 3 priorities in a legal education? (Location, employment, affordability, and admissibility are common priorities.) You’ll want to develop a list of 8-10 law schools that meet those priorities. You can find LSAT/GPA data, employment information, tuition, and more by using a resource like the American Bar Association’s Required Disclosure reports. On this website you will find these reports:
    1. 509 Required Disclosures = Previous year’s incoming class data such as GPA, LSAT, ethnicity, number of applicants + admits, etc., plus you can find tuition, number and amount of scholarships awarded, and transfer data.
    2. Employment Outcomes = Law schools are required to report the employment status of graduates 10 months after graduation. Here you will see how many of the law schools’s most recent grads are employed, and in what sectors.
    3. Bar Passage Outcomes = Law schools must report bar passage data about a year out. This report will show which state bar exam this school’s grads take, how many pass, and comparisons to the general state pass rate.

If you’re finished with the LSAT (not retaking it), then now is a good time to work on drafting a personal statement. We’ll post more about that in a future blog, or you can take a look at our Pre-Law Handbook (click on the Applying to Law School tab, then Personal Statements) for details.

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5 Things To Do After the June LSAT

June LSAT scores are out!  Whether you’re applying to law school this fall or in future years, here are your next steps.

  1. Make some LSAT retake decisions. The July LSAT registration is closed, so September is your next LSAT retake option and registration is already open here. October and November are also options, but these are on Mondays and are not offered on our campus (if that is important to you). For a full consideration of upcoming LSAT options–including timing for this fall’s applicants–revisit this post. You’ll also want to start re-prepping with digital LSAT resources like these, since every LSAT Sept and later will be on a tablet.
  2. Get your letters of recommendation lined up. Have you already contacted your LOR writers and asked them to submit a letter for you? If not, do that now, because giving your writer all summer to write the letter is smart. Recent grads: Go ahead and approach your professors now, even if you don’t plan to apply for another year or two…having them submit their letter while they still remember you (and work here) is smart. Don’t wait until a super busy time for them–or come back to find that they’re retired, on medical leave, etc.–to ask. Here are some tips on getting great recommendations.
  3. Register for the Credential Assembly Service if you haven’t already. This is the account where your recommenders will send your letter–and they can’t write your letter until you set this up.  Click here for more information.
  4. Order your transcript(s) now if you aren’t taking summer classes. If you are taking summer classes, put a reminder on your calendar to order your transcript after August 12 (or Aug. 27 if you are a summer 2019 graduate). Note: You will need to order a transcript from every undergraduate institution where you took courses–even summer courses–so now is a good time to reach out to the registrar of any community colleges or schools from which you transferred. Here is where you order your UIUC transcript.
  5. Research law schools. The very first thing to consider is: What are your top 3 priorities in a legal education? (Location, employment, affordability, and admissibility are common priorities.) You’ll want to develop a list of 8-10 law schools that meet those priorities. You can find LSAT/GPA data, employment information, tuition, and more by using a resource like the American Bar Association’s Required Disclosure reports. On this website you will find these reports:
    1. 509 Required Disclosures = Previous year’s incoming class data such as GPA, LSAT, ethnicity, number of applicants + admits, etc., plus you can find tuition, number and amount of scholarships awarded, and transfer data.
    2. Employment Outcomes = Law schools are required to report the employment status of graduates 10 months after graduation. Here you will see how many of the law schools’s most recent grads are employed, and in what sectors.
    3. Bar Passage Outcomes = Law schools must report bar passage data about a year out. This report will show which state bar exam this school’s grads take, how many pass, and comparisons to the general state pass rate.

If you’re finished with the LSAT (not retaking it), then now is a good time to work on drafting a personal statement. We’ll post more about that in a future blog, or you can take a look at our Pre-Law Handbook (click on the Applying to Law School tab, then Personal Statements) for details.

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Mark Your Calendars – Week of January 28th

Pre-Law Advising Services Workshops and Programs

We have updated our Spring Semester calendar of events on our website here.

Pre-Law 101 — Wednesday, January 30, 4:00 pm, 514 IUB

Are you new to pre-law at Illinois? Then this event is a great opportunity for you! This workshop will cover: What it means to be pre-law at Illinois; what law schools are really looking for; what pre-law students can do to maximize their undergraduate years; how to build a strong pre-law resume; what resources are available to assist pre-law students at Illinois. For more details and to register, click here.

LSAT BootcampMark your calendars for Feb. 11 at 4:00 pm. What’s covered on the LSAT? What is it really like? How can test takers best prepare? Which LSAT should you take, and how can you plan ahead for a retake? All of this will be covered at LSAT Bootcamp! Visit this website for workshop schedules and more details.

Perfecting Your Personal Statement and Resume for Law School — Wednesday, February 6th at 4:00 – 5:00 pm

This workshop will discuss how to draft a personal statement and resume for a law school application. We will cover:

  • Ideas for personal statement topics
  • How to get started writing it
  • What to include and exclude
  • Length, structure, and formatting details
  • Law school resume tips
  • How to have the resume and personal statement coordinate; and
  • A 5 step plan for writing the personal statement and resume.

Please RSVP by February 4 by clicking the link https://forms.illinois.edu/sec/8594400

LAW SCHOOL EVENTS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Diversity Law Day – Indiana University Maurer School of Law – February 9, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Diversity Law Day is dedicated to the idea that the legal profession must reflect the expanding diversity of our society. Joining efforts with the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), we hope that this day will encourage student from underrepresented and underserved communities to discover career opportunities in law. This day is particularly tailored towards high school juniors and seniors, as well college freshman and sophomores.

Diversity Law Day is free to attend, but registration is required for planning purposes. To attend, simply complete the registration form at www.law.indiana.edu/diversity-day. Contact Kendra Abercrombie at klabercr@indiana.edu or 812-855-2704 if you have any questions.

Wisconsin Statewide Pre-Law Diversity Day is set for Friday, February 22, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, Wisconsin. This event is open to all students. For more information and to register, visit their website here.  Cosponsored by the University of Wisconsin Law School and Marquette University Law School, this FREE event includes lunch and:

  • an update on law school admissions in Wisconsin featuring the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University Law Schools;
  • breakout workshops featuring a mock class for students ; and
  • law school fair featuring admissions representatives from law schools around the country.  Click here for a list of law schools that participated in last year’s event.

Minnesota Pre-Law Scholars Summer Program – Application Due March 1!

Minnesota Pre-Law Scholars (MPLS) is a program that offers a select number of students a free LSAT prep class each summer at the University of Minnesota Law School. Admission is highly selective and based on a holistic review of the MPLS application material.

College students considering law school, especially rising seniors and those from groups historically underrepresented in law school, are encouraged to apply. The program is open to undergraduate students and recent graduates from any undergraduate institution.

Students will learn about law school admissions preparation from Minnesota Law School staff. The remaining portion of class, taught by an instructor from The Princeton Review, will be dedicated to LSAT preparation and practice exams.

There is no cost to participate in MPLS. However, participants must submit a $100 seat deposit which is fully refundable upon successful completion of the program. All books and study materials will be provided.  The program will run from early June to mid-August 2019.

To learn more about MPLS or to apply, click on this link: https://www.law.umn.edu/admissions/minnesota-pre-law-scholars-mpls-program

Law School Open Houses and Admitted Students Days

As we first mentioned in several of our fall blog posts, many law schools host open houses for prospective applicants and all law schools strongly encourage students to visit their campuses.  Note: spring semester is a time when many law schools will host events specifically for admitted students. Make sure you check the law school websites to see what types of events the schools in which you have an interest are offering.   Listed below are upcoming events for four Illinois law schools.

Chicago Kent Law School Open House, Saturday, February 2, 9:00am-2:00pm.  For more information or to register, go here. 

John Marshall Law School Open House, Saturday, February 2, 9:00am-Noon, or Tuesday, February 5, 5:30pm-8:30pm. For more information or to register, go here.

Other Campus Opportunities

Senate Committee on Student Discipline Vacant Seats--The Senate Committee on Student Discipline and the Office for Student Conflict Resolution are now seeking to fill vacant student and faculty seats on the Subcommittee on Undergraduate Student Conduct and the Subcommittee on Graduate Student Conduct, and vacant faculty, student and staff seats on the Subcommittee on Sexual Misconduct. Applications are due on Feb. 28, 2019. For more information contact January Boten at botenja@illinois.edu. Apply at: https://forms.illinois.edu/sec/774201

Career Center–For information about events and workshops at The Career Center, check out their spring calendar at:  https://www.careercenter.illinois.edu/events.  Now is a great time to update your resume, plan your job search or summer internship, and get to know their office and resources.

The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) is now accepting submissions for the 2019 Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS), set for Thursday, April 18Deadline for submitting an application to the URS is Friday, February 1, 2019, at 11:59 pm. The application can be found here. 

The URS is the signature event of Undergraduate Research Week (April 14-20), and brings together students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, as well as corporate partners and sponsors, to learn more about undergraduate research and its potential to change the world. Students are encouraged to apply even if titles or abstracts have not yet been finalized – they can be edited.  Just make sure the application is successfully submitted by February 1!

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Mark Your Calendars – May 7 – End of Semester Edition – Farewell Class of 2018!

Information for Graduating Seniors and Alumni

Congratulations and best wishes to our UIUC graduating Seniors!  We would love to hear from you so please keep in touch.  In fact, we have created a Linked In Group, entitled “Illini Pre-Law Alumni.”  This is an opportunity for PLAS to stay in touch with all of you and for you to stay in touch with your classmates and other UIUC alums. You never know when you might end up in a new city and need to network to find a new job or information on law school. Please go to LinkedIn to join our group.

Information for Fall Law School Applicants

Our events have concluded for this semester but we do have a public service announcement.  Fall law school applicants — do not forget to identify and meet with people whom you would like to write letters of recommendation on your behalf BEFORE you leave campus!  If you wait until the fall to make the request(s), you will likely find yourself waiting in line behind others who asked first!  For information on how to solicit letters of recommendation and some other application tips, go here on our PLAS websiteYou can also check out some earlier blog posts on this topic.  If you would like a helpful overview on letters of recommendation that you can share with letter writers, go to the PLAS Compass Page and check out our “Guide to Letters of Recommendation” in the “Application Pointers” section.

Information for June and July LSAT Test Takers — Reminder about day of exam!

LSAC provides a list of day of test reminders here. It is absolutely critical that you look at this list well in advance of either the June 11 LSAT or the July 23 LSAT (nondisclosed test) so that you follow the LSAC’s instructions to the letter. Any violation of LSAC rules constitutes grounds for you to be dismissed from the test.  

Career Center – Job Shadowing

Summer is a great time to develop your professional network and explore career opportunities with a one-day company visit over summer break.  To apply, visit Handshake@Illinois and follow these simple steps:

  • Start in the “Job Search” tab
  • Filter by using Keyword: “Job Shadow” and indicate Job Type: “Experiential Learning”
  • Read each job shadow posting to ensure you are interested and a good fit
  • Apply now! Most applications are due ASAP!!

For more information, contact Tori Spring at vspring@illinois.edu. 

PLAS Summer Activities and Office Hours 

Although we will only be posting to our blog a couple of times per month, we will occasionally post information of interest on Facebook (Pre-Law Advising at U of IL) and Twitter (@UIUCPreLaw).  Keep checking in – you never know what interesting opportunities we will hear about and share.  In addition, you should check out our “Pre-Law Handbook.”  This is a great resource whether you are just beginning your research about law school and legal careers or if you have a specific question in mind and just want to find a quick, easy answer.  The recently-launched “live binder” format makes this resource very user friendly so check it out!

If you need to schedule a phone or in-person appointment with a pre-law advisor over the summer, remember that PLAS Summer Hours are in effect and appointments are available in advance.  Just call the PLAS office at (217) 333-9669 to make an appointment. Enjoy your break and look for announcements about our fall calendar of events when you return in August.

Have a great summer!

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Mark Your Calendars – Week of April 16

Although we have less than a month to go in the semester, Pre-Law Advising Services has two important workshops — TODAY and next Monday — for those of you planning on applying to law school this fall.  Scroll down for information about these programs, study groups for the September LSAT, Fulbright Scholarships and more, including a campus visit by noted attorney and civil rights advocate Alan Dershowitz!

Pre-Law Advising Services

Applying to Law School Workshop – TODAY, Monday April 16, 4-5:15pm, 514 IUB

This workshop is designed for Illini planning to apply to law school this fall (2018) or who are graduating and plan to apply to law school in the next few years.  The workshop will cover:

  • LSAT options–these recently changed!
  • Using the LSAC/Credential Assembly Service
  • How to use the summer to get ahead on law school applications
  • Developing a law school application strategy
  • Sending in transcripts
  • Getting letters of recommendation

And we will allocate time for Q&A. Join us to get a head start on fall applications or to find out what you can do to maximize your applications during a gap year. All students and alumni are welcome!

Personal Statement and Resume Workshop – NEXT Monday, April 23, 4-5pm, 514 IUB

If you’re planning to apply to law school this fall OR if you’re graduating and planning to apply to law school in the next couple of years, then this is a great opportunity to learn about writing a personal statement and resume for law school. The personal statement is a critical part of the law school application in which applicants must show personality, highlight strengths, identify career goals, and address why law school is their next step: a tall order for a 2 page document! Join us as we cover:

  • What the personal statement is (and isn’t) to law schools
  • Creating a realistic timeline 
  • Outlining a plan for how to write the statement
  • How the personal statement and resume work together in the application
  • What is an addendum?
  • Knowing the right resources to help you along the way

We’ll have time for Q&A, so bring your questions!

PLAS also has a couple of additional opportunities for you to consider:

  1. LSAT Study Group – The September LSAT is only a few months away! Pre-Law Advising Services is organizing LSAT study groups for those people taking the September 8, 2018 exam. We will organize groups based on the availability you specify in the google form. Sign-ups for the LSAT study groups will close by next Thursday April 19 at noon. To sign up, use the google form provided here: https://goo.gl/forms/nNpDBqrvBI510pg12

2. Pre-Law Club – Pre-Law Advising Services is measuring interest for a possible pre-law registered student organization here at the University of Illinois. The RSO would be for the 2018-2019 school year. Please answer our survey to let us know about your interest in this RSO and possibly joining the Pre-Law RSO! The form can be found here: https://goo.gl/forms/MvL1xYyR2cY8Tvss2

Campus Events

Career Center

Resume, Cover Letter, Linked In Reviews – Monday, April 16, 2-4:30pm, Resource Center; 7-9pm, Undergraduate Library, Consultation Corner.  This workshop is offered several other times during the week.  Go here for more information.

Creating Your Powerful Resume – Monday, April 16, 4-5pm, The Career Center Conference Room 143

International Student Career Meet Up – Friday, April 20, 4-5:30pm, The Career Center Interview Suite Room 213.  Join us for an information gathering where international students can talk with alumni, recruiters, or current international students who have successful job search stories. Information on invited speakers will be posted on Handshake. Open to all international students, but RSVP on Handshake is required due to a space limitation.

For more information on these and other Career Center events, check out their website.

National & International Scholarship Program – Fulbright Scholarship Workshops

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs.  A candidate will submit a Statement of Grant Purpose defining activities to take place during one academic year in a participating country outside the U.S.

During their grants, Fulbrighters will meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences.  The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think. Through engagement in the community, the individual will interact with their hosts on a one-to-one basis in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.

Sound interesting?  The National & International Scholarships Program has several workshops scheduled to help you prepare a strong application.

Friday, April 20: Personal Statement Workshop – 3:30-5:00 pm, 514 Illini Union Bookstore. A key part of the Fulbright Application is the Personal Statement, a one-page essay. Come learn how to create this document and tell your unique story.

       Webinars for those off campus:

If you are not currently on campus to take advantage of our Fulbright Information        Session, join us remotely for these webinars!  The same detailed overview will be provided for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, including: eligibility, grant types, and application advice.  There will also be plenty of time for questions and answers.

 Wednesday, April 25: Informational Webinar for Illinois Alumni and Students Abroad – 8:30-9:30 am CST; https://us.bbcollab.com/guest/96a0120ef64d43dc9f7b43d6e77ce197

Thursday, April 26: Informational Webinar for Illinois Alumni and Students Abroad – 12:00-1:00 pm CST; https://us.bbcollab.com/guest/ed88abfed96540c7a4e96da034f46819

Friday, April 27: English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Application Workshop – 2:00-3:00 pm, 514 Illini Union Bookstore. The Fulbright ETA application includes a one-page essay on your case for Why the Fulbright program should fund You to Teach English to students in ____________ (insert your host country).  We will discuss how to approach this essay and more during this workshop.

Friday, April 27: Designing a Fulbright Research Proposal Workshop – 3:30-5:00 pm, 514 Illini Union Bookstore. If you are interested in applying for a Fulbright research grant, join us for this workshop to learn how to craft this important two-page grant request, how to secure a letter of affiliation, and how to select your reference letter writers.

The US Student Fulbright website is:  https://us.fulbrightonline.org

Facebook UIUC Fulbright Events page is here.

Alan Dershowitz to Give Public Lecture at University of Illinois

Alan Dershowitz, noted attorney and advocate for civil rights and civil liberties, will be on the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign campus next Thursday, April 26, 2018, for a series of events. The day will culminate in a public lecture held in Foelinger Auditorium, at 7:30pm.  This even is FREE and open to the public! This visit is sponsored by Gies College of Business; The Program in Constitutional Theory, History and Law at the College of Law; and the Chabad Center for Jewish Life at the University of Illinois.dershowitz

 

 

 

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5 Things to Do After the December LSAT

December is here and the LSAT is over, which means it is time to focus on the remaining elements of your application so that you can get those applications out as soon as your LSAT score is available in the first week of JanuaryWhat should you be doing now?

Check on your letters of recommendation…NOW!! Your recommendations should already be in your LSAC account. Check your account and follow up with your recommenders ASAP if they aren’t, so that you know when they will be in. Remember that your application is not complete and will not be considered without them.  This should be your top priority because the closer we get to break, the busier professors get (or they begin to travel and be unreachable).

Draft your personal statement. It’s time to take that energy and time you were focusing on the LSAT and devote it to your personal statement. Although our personal statement workshops are over, we have some tips and suggestions for the personal statement on our website and a helpful video and handout on our Compass page.  You can also get help through the Writer’s Workshop, which is a great place to start. Spend some time thinking about your values, your career goals, and what makes you stand out from the crowd. Then write a draft, set it aside for a few days, and revisit it. Don’t worry if you don’t love the first draft–no one does. Start now so that you can spend at least a few weeks thinking, writing, and editing.

Schedule an appointment now. When you are ready for some feedback, you can make an appointment for a Pre-Law Advisor to review your personal statement and discuss it with you in addition to answering any questions about the application process.

  • December appointments: Both Pre-Law Advisors will be available for appointments through December 22, and we expect to be very busy with appointments during this time given that applications are up this year. It is a good idea to schedule your appointment now by calling 333-9669. Please email us your statement and resume two business days prior to your appointment so that we have time to review them.
  • Winter break appointments: The office will be closed Dec. 25 through January 1. Appointments will be available again starting January 2. If you are not in the Champaign-Urbana area, you can make a phone appointment–just let the receptionist know when you schedule that it will be a phone appointment.

Order your transcripts. You’ll need to order a transcript from each undergraduate institution you attended. At Illinois, you can check the “hold for fall grades” box to have your Fall 2017 grades included. Visit the LSAC here, http://www.lsac.org/jd/applying-to-law-school/cas/requesting-transcripts, for more information on the transcript ordering process. You can order your Illinois transcript through the Registrar’s website here.

Schedule law school visits.  Many law schools offer open houses. Check your top 3-5 law schools’ websites and social media. Individual law school visits are a good alternative. Call the law school and ask for a tour and to sit it on a class. Visiting a law school is very important to your overall law school choice, and is a MUST for schools that you are seriously considering. Plus, law schools will note your visit and you may even get to meet the person reading your application, so be sure to make a good impression.

Take a look at our earlier post called “The Application Process: LSAC Tips” for even more application details.

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Tips on getting recommendations from someone who writes them

This is a tale of two recommendations that I have been asked to write. While names have been changed to protect personal privacy, the stories are 100% true.

What is it really like to write a recommendation, and why should you care? If you’re looking at law school or other graduate programs, your letters of recommendation are a big part of helping you stand out from thousands of other strong applicants. Later you will also need references for the bar exam and for jobs and internships, so asking for recommendations/references is really a lifelong skill. And, as you’ll see, HOW you go about this can have a big impact on your results. I have been teaching and advising for 10 years now and I have learned from experience some tips and advice to share with you about how to learn this skill.

Recommendation #1: Taylor Smith 

This spring I received the following email:

Dear Ms. Thomas-Ward,
We have recently interviewed Taylor Smith and offered him employment pending our reference and background checks. Please complete the attached form and submit to us by tomorrow morning. Failure to do so may result in revocation of his employment offer.

Sincerely,
United States Justice Department 

My exact thoughts were: They must have the wrong person, because I have no idea who Taylor Smith is. I will tell them they’ve made a mistake. First let me look him up in the online system. No, I still have no recollection of this person. Let me review my files. Hmm, looks like he took my class over four years ago. I have not heard from him since, and I have no idea what happened to him after our class ended. What can I possibly say that is going to help him here, given how little I know about him?

I searched him on Google to find out where he went to law school. I almost did not complete the reference form. I read through it, and frankly the only reason I did complete it is because the questions were broad and vague enough that I felt comfortable sharing what little I knew about him. Plus, of course I didn’t want him to lose a great job opportunity.  So I completed the form with honest but vague details. I can’t imagine that the reference helped him much. I never heard anything back either from the employer or from the former student.

Recommendation #2: Ally Watson

Ally was a student in my class a couple of years ago too. We met before she graduated to talk about her post-graduation plans. I was happy to serve as a reference for a community-based public service program she applied for and got.

A few weeks ago, Ally called me out of the blue. We caught up for a couple of minutes over the phone about her current position, and then she told me that she is applying for a new job and asked if she could use me as a reference. Of course! I told her I am happy to do it, and asked a few brief details about the job so that I could give her a really strong reference. The whole call took maybe 10 minutes.

When the hiring manager called me for the reference, I was able to give specific examples that I had already considered thanks to Ally’s heads up. The recruiter asked me point blank: Should we hire this person? And I was able to give an honestly enthusiastic answer: Yes, absolutely and without question or reservation. I would hire this person in a heartbeat.

Ally sent me a quick email a few days later to let me know that she got the job, and to thank me for being her reference. The whole email was maybe 3 lines, and it was perfect.

The recommender’s perspective

When I give a recommendation, I am putting my reputation out there. I am saying to a law school or an employer that I am a trustworthy professional who provides accurate insight into the kind of student or employee that this person will be. I take it seriously, as I hope anyone writing a recommendation for me would. I think carefully about what I can say that will be beneficial, as well as how I can phrase it, and I edit my written work carefully because I wouldn’t want any sloppy writing or mistakes on my part to reflect poorly on the person I’m recommending. Personally, I enjoy providing a recommendation when I know I have positive things to say that will help my current and former students succeed. Their success makes me so happy!

When I am asked to write a recommendation for someone whom I don’t know, or someone who took my class years ago but I haven’t heard from since, or even on occasion someone with whom I have had very negative interactions, my first thought is: Why would this person use me as a reference? That shows poor personal insight and bad judgment. If I truly feel that I cannot provide a supportive reference, I will decline to provide it. When I am put in the middle–like with the Justice Department email–I resent being placed in a position in which I can’t decline without it negatively impacting the applicant. I don’t want to impede anyone’s success, but I do have an obligation to be honest and trustworthy in my recommendation.

Advice and tips for requesting references & recommendations

  • Ask the person’s permission to use them as a reference.. Experience has shown me that although this seems like a no-brainer, it needs to be stated. I can’t tell you how many people have listed me as a reference for the Illinois Bar without asking me, and that is a high stakes situation.
  • Give the recommender a graceful way out. Ask the recommender: Do you feel comfortable providing a recommendation for me? Is there anything I can provide that would be helpful (the job description, a transcript, a resume)? Will you have the time to provide this by the deadline of ____________?
  • Tell the reference that they might be called…even if your reference has provided an open offer for you to use them anytime. If you have gotten an interview, passed a background check, or have any reason to think that your references will be called, just send a quick email letting them know. What would have happened if the Justice Department called me for the reference? I would have told them I had no idea who they were talking about and hung up. For people whom I have extended an open offer to serve as a reference anytime, it makes the reference SO MUCH BETTER when I know what job they’ve applied for and how their experiences align. Just being able to say that I’ve spoken to the person recently improves the credibility of the reference. It’s always awkward when they ask when I last had contact with the person and the answer is: Ummmm…..maybe five years ago? 
  • Trust your instincts. Are you getting the feeling that your recommender isn’t enthusiastic? Is s/he avoiding your emails/phone calls, unresponsive, using a reluctant or annoyed tone, or expressing concern about the deadline? Then go with your gut and move on, because a lukewarm, unenthusiastic recommendation can be worse than none at all.
  • Follow up. Thank your recommender either through a card or email, and tell them the outcome. Did you get the job? Did you get into the law school? Let them know, and keep that connection alive through LinkedIn. You will need more references in the future, so keeping a group of people in mind who can vouch for you is truly a lifelong skill.

Dealbreakers: When I refuse to recommend someone

  • Immediate turnaround. I typically will not provide any recommendation letter with less than 2 weeks’ notice. Don’t wait until the day before an application is due to ask for a letter.
  • Negative or no history. I have been asked to write recommendations or serve as a reference for people I’ve never personally met, for former students who did extremely poorly in my class, and for people who know that I am aware of their criminal history.  If I know the recommendation would obligate me to reveal negative information, I will not provide one.
  • Nothing to say. Sometimes a former student with a mediocre grade and almost no direct interaction with me will ask for a reference. If all I can say about you is that you took my class and got a B, I generally will not provide that reference because I know it won’t be helpful.

 

 

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Mark Your Calendars – End of Semester Edition – Farewell Class of 2017!

Information for Graduating Seniors and Alumni

Congratulations and best wishes to our UIUC graduating Seniors!  We would love to hear from you so please keep in touch.  In fact, we have created a Linked In Group, entitled “Illini Pre-Law Alumni.”  This is an opportunity for PLAS to stay in touch with all of you and for you to stay in touch with your classmates and other UIUC alums. You never know when you might end up in a new city and need to network to find a new job or information on law school. Please go to LinkedIn to join our group.

Information for Fall Law School Applicants

Our events have concluded for this semester but we do have a public service announcement.  Fall law school applicants — do not forget to identify and meet with people whom you would like to write letters of recommendation on your behalf BEFORE you leave campus!  If you wait until the fall to make the request(s), you will likely find yourself waiting in line behind others who asked first!  For information on how to solicit letters of recommendation and some other application tips, go to our April 26 blog post.  If you would like a helpful overview on letters of recommendation that you can share with letter writers, go to the PLAS Compass Page and check out our “Guide to Letters of Recommendation” in the “Application Pointers” section.

Information for June LSAT Test Takers — Reminder about day of exam!

LSAC provides a list of day of test reminders here. It is absolutely critical that you look at this list well in advance of June 12 so that you follow the LSAC’s instructions to the letter. Any violation of LSAC rules constitutes grounds for you to be dismissed from the test.  

PLAS Summer Activities and Office Hours 

Although we will only be posting to our blog a couple of times per month, we will occasionally post information of interest on Facebook (Pre-Law Advising at U of IL) and Twitter (@UIUCPreLaw).  Keep checking in – you never know what interesting opportunities we will hear about and share.

If you need to schedule an appointment with a pre-law advisor over the summer, remember that PLAS Summer Hours are in effect and appointments are available in advance.  Just call the PLAS office at (217) 333-9669 to make an appointment. Enjoy your break and look for announcements about our fall calendar when you return in August.

Have a great summer!

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Early Bird Blog for Fall Applicants: Three Tasks to Do Now and This Summer

Fall Law School Applicants – Now is the time to get organized and start preparing your applications for the fall.

Here are three tasks for fall applicants to complete over the summer.

First, request your letters of recommendation NOW.

  1. Who should you ask to submit a LOR on your behalf?
    1. Your letters should be written by professors or supervisors who are both in a position to evaluate your work and capable of expressing enthusiasm about your relevant talents and abilities.
  2. What is the best way to approach a possible letter writer?
    1. Make an appointment with your recommender to discuss your request. Explain your interest in law school and provide helpful information to assist the writer.
    2. This might include a copy of your transcript, a personal résumé that lists academic distinctions and accomplishments, and a copy of your personal statement or an explanation of why you want to attend law school.
    3. You may also wish to provide your grade point average and your LSAT score. If you are unsure as to what the writer needs, ask him or her.
  3. What do I do if I am graduating and planning to apply to law school in a year or two?
    1. Stay in touch with people whom you think would be able to submit a strong LOR on your behalf.
    2. Several of the law schools that require applicants to submit LORs prefer to have at least one of those letters come from faculty, even if you are not coming straight from undergrad to law school.
  4. How does the recommender submit the LOR?
    1. The process is handled through the applicant’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) account which is set up via the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) website.
    2. Every law school applicant is required to apply to law school through their CAS account. Click on this link to learn more the LOR process.
    3. You can also check out our Compass page for a very helpful handout on this topic.

Second, draft your personal statement.

  1. What is a personal statement?
    1. The personal statement is a 2- to 3-page essay that, when done well, introduces who you are and what unique qualities you bring to the institution while also highlighting your strengths and demonstrating strong writing skills.
  2. Check out Pre-Law Advising Service’s Personal Statement Do’s and Don’ts.
  3. Have someone else take a second look at your personal statement.
    1. Have someone else like a family member, professor, or friend review your personal statement or set up an appointment with one of the Pre-Law Advising Services advisors by calling the PLAS Office at 333-9669.

Third, update your resume.

  1. Pay attention to length.
    1. Some law schools have a strict 1-page limit, while others are flexible. Check the requirements indicated on the application or the school’s website to determine the appropriate length.
  2. Consider the two Rs: recent and relevant.
    1. Ideally, each item on your résumé should be both, but at minimum each item should be recent or highly relevant.
  3. Ask us to review your résumé.
    1. The same process for personal statement reviews applies; please make an appointment by calling 217-333-9669 and email us your résumé 2 business days prior to the appointment. We’ll review it and be prepared to discuss it with you at the appointment time.
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UPDATED December Checklist

It’s now December (can you believe it?) which means that programming is winding down as we turn to finals. What should be on your December checklist so that you can finish the year strong?

December checklist for pre-law students

  • December is a great time to start applying for summer internshipsGo to our Compass page to check out our 20+ page Internship newsletter!
  • This is also a great time to update your resume. Add all of the details of things you did this semester–before you forget. Use the Career Center’s resume resources if you need some pointers.
  • Planning to take the LSAT in 2017? Need a scholarship to afford an LSAT prep class? Apply for our LSAT test prep scholarships!
  • Winter break is a great time to take a baseline practice LSAT. You can find a free practice exam on our Compass page. Make sure that you time yourself!
  • For freshmen and sophomores who are not ready to take the LSAT but want to build LSAT-related skills, check out Khan Academy’s Introduction to Critical Thinking lessons!
  • Take your winter courses seriously. Your GPA is very important to law schools.

December checklist for law school applicants

  • Finish your essays and SUBMIT those applications! We are now at the point that you should not delay.
  • Check your LSAC account to make sure your recommendations are in; if not, follow up again with your recommenders. Note: the LSAC typically closes around the holidays, so you should expect processing delays if submitting at this time.
  • You can still make an appointment (call 333-9669) to review personal statements/optional essays. Pre-Law Advising Services will be closed Dec. 23-Jan.2, reopening for limited appointments from Jan. 3 until spring semester begins.
  • Plan any winter break law school visits. If you are returning home, this could be a good time to visit nearby law schools without making a special trip. Contact the schools to make sure they are open and able to accommodate.
  • Begin looking into scholarship options (like the ones we posted to our Facebook page) and complete your FAFSA as soon as possible.
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