Mark Your Calendars – Week of September 18

Pre-Law Events

Next week is Law School Application Week! Save the date for the Law School Fair! Next Wednesday, Sept. 27 from 10 am-2 pm at the Union over 100 law school reps will be here to meet YOU! Click here for more details, including a list of who’s coming.

Next week also has the Law School Admission Panel, featuring the admissions deans at UC Berkeley, University of Chicago and at our own UIUC College of Law on Tuesday, September 26Then on Thursday, September 28, there will be a presentation by Northwestern/Pritzker School of Law.  Go to our Events Calendar for information about time and location for these great events.

Perfecting Your Personal Statement and Resume for Law School– Tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept.19, 4-5pm. The personal statement is one of the most difficult yet powerful elements of the law school application. Join us for this workshop, which will cover what the personal statement is, how to prepare for writing it, and some tips and suggestions for making it reflect an applicant’s strengths. We will also discuss how the personal statement and resume can complement each other to create a stronger law school application. Each session is the same, so select the one that best suits your schedule. Register here for this session.

Engineers and others thinking about patent law! Mark your calendars now for this great event in November!

Patent Bar Exam Session

335 Grainger Engineering Library, Nov 15, 2017  5:00 – 6:00 pm 

The patent bar exam is the required first step to becoming either a patent agent for the United States Patent & Trademark Office or a patent prosecutor/litigator as a practicing attorney. Students with a background in engineering and the sciences (such as biology, biochemistry, physics, chemistry, computer science) are eligible to sit for this exam. (To see all exam requirements, visit the link below).  Join us for this Patent Bar session to learn about the exam from an expert. Mark Dighton, Director of the Practicing Law Institute Patent Office Exam Course, will be here to answer all of your questions.

He’ll also answer any other questions you have about the patent bar exam. This session is specifically designed for those undergrad and graduate students in engineering, science, or technology disciplines who are eligible to sit for the patent bar.

For a list of eligible majors or backgrounds visit

For more information and to register for the Patent Bar Exam Info Session, click here.

Campus Events

Career Center 

Here are some workshops offered this week.  For the full Career Center calendar, click on this link.

How to Sell Your LAS Degree at Career FairsToday, Monday, September 18, 4-5pm, 1092 Lincoln Hall

Creating Your Powerful ResumeToday, Monday, September 18, 5-6pm, Room 143, Career Center (go here for other times for this workshop)

Making Your Major Decision — Wednesday, September 20, 4-5pm, 1064 Lincoln Hall

International Student Career Meet Up — Thursday, September 21, 4-5:30pm, Career Center Interview Suite (616 E. Green Street) Room 213

Finding An Internship — Thursday, September 21, 4-5pm, Career Center Room 143

Job Search Resources for International Students — Friday, September 22, 4-6pm, Career Center Interview Suite (616 E. Green Street) Room 213

Criminology, Law, & Society Minor Information Session

3057 Lincoln Hall, 2:00 – 2:30 pm

Learn more about the Department of Sociology’s new minor in Criminology, Law, & Society! If you have additional questions, contact


Thursday, September 21 at 12 p.m. Max L. Rowe Auditorium, Law Building

Justice Jesse G. Reyes, Illinois Appellate Court, First District will discuss important priorities for the legal profession, including diversity inclusion in the legal profession, and providing a voice for a large segment of our middle class and working population.The lecture is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided to lecture attendees.

Minority Association of Future Attorneys (MAFA) meeting is Tuesday September 19 at 7PM. Noyes Lab 165 – everyone is welcome!

College of Law Opportunities for Pre-Law Students

Prospective Client Volunteers Needed–Please consider volunteering to play the role of a prospective client with a possible legal issue for students in CFI: Interviewing, Counseling & Fact Investigation.  Volunteers are needed on September 27 and 28 at varying times.  You will meet with and be interviewed by your lawyer for approximately 15-20 minutes.  You will be given the fact pattern for the role you volunteer to play.  Please consider signing up for multiple sessions.  To volunteer or for additional details, contact Angela Martin (  Feel free to refer any non-law, or undergraduate friends.  Your time is greatly appreciated!


We’ve collected 275 scholarships–for both undergrads and incoming law students–on our Scholarships Spreadsheet over on our Pre-Law Compass page. It’s a wide variety of scholarships based on everything from being left-handed to making a video to tweeting, and deadlines vary, so check it out!


It’s NOT too early to start looking for spring/summer internships today! We post internships on our blog and our Facebook page. Check out this blog post for a plan on how to start finding spring and summer internships this fall.

Pre-Law Resources

Now is a great time to check out–or join–all of our pre-law resources! Click the links to explore. You can also search this blog for posts about the LSAT, law school applications, resumes, internships, and more!




Compass page

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Top 6 Ways to Get Law School Application Fee Waivers!

Law school applications are now open, which means that application season has officially begun! Those of you who are applying to law school now are finding out how expensive law school applications can be. Each school has an application fee and each school must receive a Law School Report ($35 each), which adds up fast.

Here are our Top 6 tips for getting application fee waivers.

  1. Apply for an LSAC fee waiver. The best fee waiver is directly through the Law School Admission Council. This fee waiver will waive the fees for two LSAT exams, your Credential Assembly Service fee, and four Law School Reports. In addition, most law schools will waive your application fee too if you received an LSAC fee waiver. You can apply for an LSAC fee waiver and find out more information here.
  2. Attend the Law Fair. If you are not eligible for an LSAC waiver, there are other ways to reduce your costs. First, come to the Law Fair on September 27 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Illini Union. Over 100 law schools will be sending representatives to talk with interested students about their programs and their application process. Many schools at the fair will be giving out fee waivers! (Tip: Make sure you sign in at the law school tables. Many schools will email you a fee waiver afterward.) Click here for more details about the Law Fair, like which law schools are attending.
  3. Register for the Candidate Referral Service (CRS) in your LSAC account. This is basically a survey that asks you lots of questions about yourself–your background, interests, grades, etc.–and then “matches” you with law schools that are looking for students like you. Many law schools use the CRS to offer fee waivers, so it is worth your time to complete the CRS survey here.
  4. Directly inquire with your preferred law schools. Send a polite email to their admissions office asking whether they have a fee waiver program, and how you can apply. Some schools will simply respond with a waiver; other schools will have certain parameters (like GPA or financial need) to meet before waiving your fee. Take 10 minutes to craft a friendly form email and send it to all of the schools you’re applying to–it’s an easy way to collect a few fee waivers. It’s well worth your time.
  5. Attend law school visit or open house days. Sometimes when a school sees that you’ve made the effort to visit, they will reward you with a fee waiver.
  6. Join the Pre-Law Facebook Group. Sometimes law schools send our office fee waivers, and we always post them to our FB group on a first-come, first-served basis. Click here to join!


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Starting Your September Off Strong and Introducing . . . Law School Application Week!

Now is the time to plan ahead and make sure you are organized for the fall semester!

Freshmen –

  • Attend a Pre-Law 101 session to learn more about what you should be doing the next four years. The next session is: Monday September 11, 4:00-5:00PM, Room 514 of the Illini Union Bookstore.
  • Make sure to get involved on campus with a few extracurricular activities, too! Explore Pre-Law Advising Service’s Compass page for more information.


  • Also consider attending a Pre-Law 101 session if you are new to pre-law. If you are eligible, apply to be a member of the Pre-Law Honors Society.
  • Remember that you will need professors to write recommendations letters for law school applications, so keep in touch with professors!
  • Start planning your potential LSAT date, and consider possible conflicts like work, internships, and study abroad.


  • Solicit letters of recommendation from your professors.
  • Remember to keep your GPA as high as possible. Grades are very important for a law school application.
  • Plan to attend the Law School Fair on Sept. 27 to explore law schools and find out what they’re looking for in a candidate!
  • If you haven’t taken the LSAT, pick a date for your test. Our Practice LSAT for Sept. 8 is full, but we will host another in the spring, so be on the lookout for that one.


  • You should be working on your applications if applying for Fall 2018. Attend the Perfecting Your Personal Statement and Resume for Law School on Tuesday September 19 from 4:00-5:00PM in Room 514 of the Illini Union Bookstore. And see our Application Week events below!
  • If you are taking a gap year or two, start considering job opportunities and what you will do during your time off. The Career Center offers more information on Handshake, the new way to apply for jobs and internships. For more information, click here.
  • The Career Center also offers Resume/Cover Letter/ and LinkedIn Reviews, Career Fair Prep, and Resume Workshops throughout the month of September. For more information on the Career Center’s events, click here.
  • Finalize your recommenders for your law school applications. If you have not asked your recommenders for a letter of recommendation, ASK THEM NOW.

For more information what you should be doing now to prepare for law school, click here to learn more about Pre-Law Advising Service’s suggested timeline for students.

Pre-Law Advising Services offers many great events in September and this year we will have a special week devoted to law school application-related events.

The week of September 25 is Law School Application Week!  Here are our 3 great events for Law School Admissions Week!

Event #1 – Law School Admissions Panel

Tuesday September 26, 7:00PM

1002 Lincoln Hall

What are law school admissions professionals really looking for in an applicant? How do they weigh LSAT scores, grades, or work experience? What makes them take notice of an applicant–and what would make them deny someone? Join us for this expert law school admissions panel to discover this and more. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions. This is a must-see event for anyone considering applying to law school!

Panelists include:

Dean Ann Perry from the University of Chicago Law School

Ms. Grace Mayeda from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Dean Rebecca Ray from the University of Illinois College of Law

Event #2 – Law School Fair

Wednesday September 27, 10:00-2:00PM

Illini Union Rooms A, B, and C

It’s the biggest pre-law event of the year! Join us as 120+ law schools visit campus to meet all who are interested in applying to law school. Learn about law schools, scholarships, and the application process while meeting the people who will be reading your law school applications. Application fee waivers and other freebies will be available. Stop by or stay the whole time! This event is free and open to the public.

Event #3 – Get to Know Northwestern Law

1090 Lincoln Hall

Thursday September 28   6:00 – 7:30PM

Interested in Northwestern Pritzker School of Law?  Join us as Assistant Director of Admissions Sarah Rewerts discusses The Northwestern Law Difference.  Sarah will also share her inside perspective on Northwestern Law’s admission process, including:  the Early Decision program; the interview process; the recent decision to begin accepting the GRE (for the Fall 2019 entering class), and more!  This is a great opportunity to get to know Northwestern Law and to have your questions answered!

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Law School Admissions Update: LSAT or GRE?

The American Bar Association (ABA) requires that ABA-accredited law schools use some sort of entrance exam in the admissions process. The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) has been the exam used by ABA-accredited law schools for admission to their Juris Doctor (JD) programs for over 50 years.  That changed in March of 2016 when the University of Arizona Law School announced that it would begin accepting either the LSAT or the Graduate Record Exam General Test (GRE) for applicants to its JD program beginning in the Fall of 2016.  Harvard Law School followed suit in March of 2017, announcing that it would begin accepting either the GRE or LSAT with this fall’s application cycle. In August, Georgetown University Law Center announced its plans to do the same, also with this fall’s applicants. A day before Georgetown’s announcement,  Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law stated that it would begin accepting either the GRE or LSAT next fall, for the class that would begin in the Fall of 2019. Click on the links provided to learn more about the application process for each of these schools. Note: Northwestern’s Assistant Director for Admissions and Financial Aid, Sarah Rewerts, will be here at UIUC on Thursday, September 28, 6pm, 1090 Lincoln Hall, to discuss this and other admissions-related topics.

So — what does this mean for a prospective law school applicant?  As of right now, unless an applicant for this cycle is planning on applying ONLY to the three schools listed above that will currently accept either the GRE or LSAT (a strategy that PLAS does not recommend), applicants will still need to prepare for and take the LSAT.  But since this topic is getting a lot of attention in the news, we thought it would be helpful to provide a brief overview of both standardized tests.  As always, we encourage you to do your research and learn more about this issue.

What is the GRE?

Content/Format: It is a computer-delivered standardized test, administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), that evaluates test takers on the following areas:

  1. Analytical Writing (one section with two separately timed tasks). Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills.
  2. Verbal Reasoning (two sections). Measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it.
  3. Quantitative Reasoning (two sections). Measures problem-solving ability suing basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.

The GRE also includes both an unscored and a research section.  Per the GRE’s website, the Analytical Writing section will always be first. Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and unidentified/unscored sections may appear in any order so test takers should treat each section as if it counts toward your score.  For more information about the GRE content and structure, check out the ETS website:

Cost: $205, which includes 2 free practice tests and a diagnostic tool; other practice materials are available for a fee on the website.  Go here for more info:

Location/Time: The GRE is available any day but Sunday. You can select the U of I Testing Services Lab on Neil Street for administrations during the week. 

What is the LSAT?

Content/Format:  It is a paper and pencil test (although it has begun piloting a computer-delivered format), administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Per the LSAC’s website, it is comprised of the following:

  1. Reading Comprehension (one scored section): Measures the ability to read, with understanding and insight, examples of lengthy and complex materials similar to those encountered in law school.
  2. Analytical Reasoning (one scored section): Measures the ability to understand a structure of relationships and to draw logical conclusions about that structure.
  3. Logical Reasoning (two scored sections): Assesses the test taker’s ability to analyze, critically evaluate, and complete arguments as they occur in ordinary language.
  4. Experimental Section (one unscored section): This will be an additional section of the types of questions identified above, but the test taker will NOT know which section is experimental so test takers should treat each section as if it counts toward your score.
  5. Writing Sample (one unscored section): Although this is unscored, copies of your writing sample are sent to ALL law schools to which you apply.

For more information about the LSAT’s content and structure, go to the LSAC’s website:

Cost: $180

Location/Time: The LSAT is currently offered four times per year, although as we mentioned in a previous blog post, that will be increased to six times per year beginning in the 2018-2019 testing cycle. The upcoming dates of LSAT administration are as follows: September 16, 2017; December 2, 2017; February 10, 2018; and June 11, 2018.   There are multiple test sites, including UIUC.  Go here for a list of regular administration LSAT locations:

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Welcome Back, Part 2: Top 3 Things That Happened Over the Summer and Mark Your Calendars!

We hope you had a great summer and that your semester is off to a good start. Beginning next week, PLAS will resume our Monday “Mark Your Calendars” edition, followed by a midweek blog post addressing a host of topical issues.  But since you’ve been away, some important pre-law related events and updates have occurred.  Here are the Top 3:

  1. If you haven’t heard yet, the Law School Admission Council has announced some big changes to the LSAT. Want to learn more?  Check out this July PLAS blog post.
  2. PLAS has updated its list of available scholarships for undergrad and law school students.  The tally is now 275!  Go to the PLAS Compass page to learn more!
  3. PLAS recently published a blog about the best way to get an internship for Spring and Summer 2018.  Click here for more information.

And have you heard? Three more law schools have announced that they will begin allowing applicants to use either LSAT or GRE test scores for admission to their schools!  Want to learn more?  Check out our midweek blog post, coming this Wednesday, August 30.

Also — last week our blog featured a list of upcoming PLAS events, including our FREE PRACTICE LSAT, set for Friday, September 8 and the Law School Fair on Wednesday, September 27, Illini Union A, B, C, 10am-2pm. Check out last week’s blog for information on other upcoming PLAS events.  If you are interested in taking the FREE practice LSAT, note that space is limited so interested students should  go to our PLAS Events Calendar and register ASAP!

Campus Events and Activities

University Counsel’s Office — PAID Internship!

As we announced on Friday on the PLAS Facebook page, University Counsel’s Office is hiring 1-2 undergrad pre-law students as PAID interns for 2017-18! Required: At least sophomore standing, minimum 3.0 GPA, and consistent weekly availability. This is a GREAT opportunity to meet a variety of attorneys, see the practice of law, and contribute to the success of a legal team! Applications due Sept. 8. See attached position description for more details.


Provosts’ Undergraduate Student Advisory Board – Call for Applications

Provost’s Undergraduate Student Advisory Board is looking for students who:

  • Are undergraduates for the current year who will be on campus—not studying abroad or graduating early—both this fall and in Spring, 2018;
  • Have a strong record of academic achievement as evidenced by a 3.0 GPA or above in their college courses or, for first-time new freshmen or transfer students, as evidenced by what you would consider a “very strong” high school or prior institution record;
  • Are interested in academic affairs initiatives and activities on campus;
  • Are involved in both academic and extracurricular activities here or, for first-time new freshmen or transfer students, were involved at their previous institution.

Please be aware that a primary requirement for participation is availability during the set meeting times for the fall, no class or work conflicts. Though we certainly don’t expect you to vet this in the nominees, know that this will be the first question we ask any of them. Fall meeting dates are Wednesday, October 4; Friday, November 10; and Friday, December 8, all from noon to 1 p.m. with lunch provided.

Applications can be completed here and are due by Friday, September 8th at 5p.m. Questions can be directed to or students can call (217)333-6677.

Career Center

One big change that occurred over the summer at the Career Center is the transition away from I-Link to the new job and internship portal called Handshake.  Click on this  link to learn more about this new search engine and to register to set up your own Handshake page!

Information Night for International Students — Friday, September 1, 6-7pm, Room 143 at the Career Center International students will be introduced to services, programs and resources of The Career Center. A short tour of The Career Center will follow.

National and International Scholarships Program – Luce Scholars Program: Information Sessions

The Luce is for U.S. citizens under the age of 30 who are young professionals, seniors and graduate/professional students. The Luce fully funds a one year internship in East or Southeast Asia for those with little significant academic or personal experience with Asia.

Thursday, August 31, 2017: 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.—Information session and discussion with a former Luce Scholar
Friday, September 1, 2017: 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.—Workshop on how to craft a Luce Application

All sessions are held in the Illini Union Bookstore, 5th Floor, Room 514. If you would like to discuss the Luce before the next information session please contact the NIS Program to schedule an appointment. For more information about the Luce Scholars Program, go here.

College of Law Opportunities for Pre-Law Students

Prospective Client Volunteers Needed–Please consider volunteering to play the role of a prospective client with a possible legal issue for students in CFI: Interviewing, Counseling & Fact InvestigationVolunteers are needed on September 13, 14, 27, and 28 at varying times.  You will meet with and be interviewed by your lawyer for approximately 15-20 minutes.  You will be given the fact pattern for the role you volunteer to play.  Please consider signing up for multiple sessions.  To volunteer or for additional details, contact Angela Martin (  Feel free to refer any non-law, or undergraduate friends.  Your time is greatly appreciated!

PAID Video Operators Needed– The Trial Advocacy Program needs video operators for the fall semester on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from approximately 5:30/6:00 p.m. – 8:30/9:00 p.m. at the Champaign County Courthouse, Urbana.  You can choose to do one evening a week or both evenings.  The pay is $8.25/hour.  For full job details and requirements, please contact Angela Martin (  Feel free to refer any non-law or undergraduate friends.

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Big LSAT changes: What should you know?

If you haven’t heard yet, the Law School Admission Council has announced some big changes to the LSAT. What are they, and what should you know? Let’s dive in.

Expanded LSAT options. Starting in 2018-19, the LSAT will be offered 6 times per year instead of the 4 times per year schedule it’s been on for years.
What it currently is (4x/yr): June, September OR October, December, February
What it will be in 2018-19 (6x/yr): June, September, November, January, March, June, July (the LSAC year will start in July beginning in 2019) (Click here to view the upcoming schedule.)
Potential impact: The addition of the November and January tests instead of December and February could be a good thing. As a group, Illini performed worse on the December exam, which was during or right before finals. Taking it in November instead–right before fall break–at least prevents the dreaded LSAT/finals overlap. The January date is only two weeks earlier than the old February schedule, but for those who are taking it and applying immediately, saving two weeks that late in the cycle could be helpful. The July exam in 2019 will be helpful in providing another summer opportunity–this might be the best part of the new schedule for students.

No more limits. The LSAC has also decided to eliminate the rule that applicants could only take the LSAT a maximum of 3 times in any 2 year period. Now, there will be no limits on how many times a person can take the LSAT.
What it was: A person could take the LSAT a maximum of 3 times in 2 years.
What it will be: A person has no limits on how many times s/he takes the LSAT.
Potential impact: Probably not much. Although it will now be possible to continue retaking the exam after 3 times (and we’re sure many will), will the score really improve by doing so? Both LSAC’s data and our own show that on average, retakers score about two points higher on a second exam, and see less improvement on a third exam. Illini who took the LSAT 3 times had the same average score as those who took it once. And, about 15% of Illini retakers obtained a worse score upon retaking, so that’s another risk. At a certain point it becomes very difficult to sustain LSAT studying due to burnout and the time commitment involved. Of course there is also the issue of how a law school will evaluate an applicant with seven LSAT scores…remember that every single score will be seen by an applicant’s law schools.

Tablet-based tests. The LSAC is currently testing a tablet-based LSAT option. No word yet on when this format might become available. Right now the LSAT is a paper and pencil test and will continue to be until the LSAC decides otherwise.
What it was: Paper and pencil.
What it is now: Still paper and pencil, until we hear otherwise.

Khan Academy LSAT prep.  The LSAC has partnered with Khan Academy to create free LSAT prep which will be available to all. It’s expected to debut in the second half of 2018, so this could be a helpful resource for anyone planning to take the LSAT in late 2018 or after. See the press release here.

We will monitor all upcoming LSAT changes and share with you what we learn, so stay tuned!

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5 things to do after the June LSAT

June LSAT scores are just about to be released. If you’re done with the June LSAT and applying to law school this fall, now is the perfect time to reallocate all the hours you were spending on LSAT prep to other parts of the law school application. What should you do now?

  1. 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. Don’t wait until a super busy time for them–like September, for professors–to ask. Here are some tips.
  2. Register for the Credential Assembly Service if you haven’t already. This is the account you will need to complete your law school applications. Click here for more information.
  3. Order your transcript 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 18. 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.
  4. Draft a personal statement. Your goal is to convey your passion, career goals, and important elements of your character in two double-spaced pages. Sound difficult? We’ve made several resources, including a video and handout, available over on our Compass page. A great deadline would be to complete a draft of a personal statement by the fall semester start so that you can set up a review appointment and have plenty of time to edit.
  5. Research law schools. You’ll want to have a list of 8-10 law schools representing a variety of elements including geography, admissibility, and programs of interest. You can find LSAT/GPA data, employment information, tuition, and more by using a resource like Law School Transparency’s Reports, which allow you to make direct comparisons, or the American Bar Association’s Required Disclosure reports.

And, if you’re planning on retaking the LSAT in September, register for it right away and start your studying! The test date, September 16, is only 10 weeks away! Many test sites will fill, so you’ll want to register early to get your preferred testing location.

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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.

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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Feeling anxious about the June LSAT? You have options!

June and September are the most popular LSAT administrations for Illinois students and alums. What should you do if you are feeling anxious as we approach the June LSAT?

First, it’s important to acknowledge that some anxiety is normal. The LSAT is a difficult test, and it’s perfectly natural to feel some anxiety about performing well on it. Of the thousands of students and alumni I’ve worked with over the past 10 years, I can probably count on one hand how many weren’t nervous about this exam.

If you are getting concerned that you will not be ready for the June exam: Know that you have options. Let’s take a look at each.

Option 1: Withdraw from the June LSAT now. This might be a good option if you know you didn’t spend enough time on your LSAT prep this spring, and/or you are not going to be able to focus on LSAT prep for the next few weeks. This option can take the pressure off, allowing you to refocus your game plan for September. You can withdraw and register for the September LSAT now (click here to do so). Advice for those who make this choice: DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. Once the pressure of the June LSAT is off, you will be very tempted to put your LSAT materials away all summer. DO NOT DO THIS, or you will find yourself in the exact same state of panic in August when you realize you are not ready for the September exam either. I have seen this countless times! Use this summer wisely, and take the time you need to be fully prepared for September.

Option 2: Keep going, and make a game time decision. This is more for the students who have been LSAT prepping consistently this spring but still feel they are pretty far from their LSAT goals. Crank up your LSAT prep–you still have 3.5 weeks, and that’s enough time to make some significant gains.Clear your schedule as much as possible and give it your all. Take a final timed practice test around June 9. Then, you can make a game time decision: You can withdraw from the LSAT as late as the day before the test (June 11). Withdrawals are not seen by law schools–you will only lose your test registration fee. In the long run, this is a small price to pay to avoid having a low LSAT score. Advice for those who choose this option: Really clear your schedule for the next few weeks and study as much as possible. If you truly want to see results, you will need to take this seriously and put in the time and effort. On the plus side, it’s only for a few weeks–you can still go to the pool later this summer.

Option 3: Know that you can cancel your LSAT score after the exam. This option is more appealing to those students who have serious test anxiety or whose LSAT prep shows inconsistent results–some days you do great, others are deeply disappointing. How will you feel on test day? It’s very hard to say. Keep in mind that if test day does not go well, you can go home and immediately cancel your score. You won’t know what score you received, which means you’ll need to retake, but there is some benefit to gaining the experience of taking an actual LSAT to make you feel more confident the next time around. Advice to those who choose this option: Follow the LSAC instructions carefully, as you only have 6 calendar days to cancel. (Click here for instructions.) Since you know you will be retaking, get back to your LSAT study prep right away–the September test is only 8 weeks after the June one, so you will need all of that time to prepare.

Option 4: Hope for the best. Continue your LSAT prep diligently, take the June LSAT, see what happens, and let this dictate whether you retake. This is a perfectly valid plan if you’ve been taking your LSAT prep seriously and you just have some general anxiety about test day performance. Advice for those who choose this option: June LSAT scores are projected to be released July 6. Given that the September exam is Sept. 16, you will not have much time to prep for a retake after getting your June score. Please keep an open mind about this suggestion: You may want to keep LSAT prepping after the June LSAT until you receive your score. Why? So that you can continue to make gains for the September exam. If you set aside your LSAT books from June 12 to July 6, you’re probably going to lose some ground that you’ll have to make up for. Another option: Be ready to make a decision almost immediately when you receive your score about whether to retake. Consider: Under what circumstances would you retake? For example, If my score isn’t _____ then I will definitely retake. Or, If my score isn’t within 2 points of where I was practice testing or If my score isn’t at the median of Dream Law School. The point is to consider this now so that you can prepare yourself for this decision, instead of waiting until the score comes out to even think about it. You won’t have weeks to bounce around the idea of retaking once your score is released–you’ll need to get on with it. Quickly.

Overall: Keep the big picture in mind. Do your absolute best to prepare and perform on this test. But don’t get sucked into tunnel vision about the LSAT and what it means. What the LSAT does is predict first-year law school performance. The LSAT does not measure intelligence, or your ability to make an impact on the world, or how successful you’ll be as a lawyer. A high LSAT score doesn’t mean you’ll be the best lawyer in the courtroom, just as a low LSAT score doesn’t mean that you can’t graduate at the top of your class and become a very successful lawyer. Being an effective lawyer requires many other skills beyond performing well on one test! Keep your chin up, give it your absolute best effort, and keep moving forward.

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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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