Character and fitness disclosures

The character and fitness questions have begun. This time of year is when I start getting many questions from students about the character and fitness questions on law school applications. You know the ones–they ask whether you’ve ever been charged with a crime, or whether you’ve been accused of academic dishonesty, or whether you’ve ever been on academic probation. Some schools will even ask about your traffic or parking tickets–hey, lawyers are nothing if not thorough. Please, please, take a moment to review this post about these questions.

Why do they care? Consider this from a law school’s perspective. The pressure is on law schools not only to admit a class of quality students, but to help their graduates find jobs at the end. They want to admit students who will be admitted to the bar. A history of criminal charges, multiple issues involving substance abuse, academic dishonesty, or a tendency towards violence suggest impaired or poor judgment at best and potential problems passing the character and fitness investigation to be admitted to any state’s bar. Law students are certainly making a huge investment in their future by attending law school–but the law school itself is also highly invested in making sure its students and graduates succeed. Each party’s future depends on graduates’ success.

How should you answer these questions? Before even looking at the questions on the application, you should know that your law school application will be reviewed when you later apply to any state’s Board of Admission to the Bar. If the Board of Admission to the Bar finds discrepancies or omissions, you will have to answer to the character and fitness committee and to their satisfaction–or they will not allow you to sit for their state’s bar exam. You should also know that the Board of Admissions to the Bar defines an “omission” as a lie.

Read the application’s questions carefully. 90% of the questions I receive are clearly answered in the law school’s question or instructions. Carefully review the question. Most of the time, the issue is not that the question is unclear; it’s that the applicant just doesn’t want to answer it. However, if you are still uncertain, then…

Ask for clarification. If you have questions or you don’t understand whether the question encompasses your situation, call the admissions office of the school. Ask them for clarification–they are the ones who wrote the question, so they should be able to explain what they are looking for. Believe me when I say that they have seen it all. Your situation will not shock them.

This may sound surprising, but I do not believe that students should be seeking legal advice with regard to these questions. First of all, you’ll note that many law school applications will clearly state that it is the applicant’s responsibility to provide full answers, even if advised against doing so by a lawyer or other party. The Board of Admissions to the Bar will say the same thing–it is YOUR responsibility to fully answer the questions. Secondly (in my opinion), if the situation is serious enough that you sought legal counsel, then it’s serious enough that a law school should know about it, as should the Board of Admissions to the Bar.

When in doubt, disclose. Law schools have seen it all, from underage drinking tickets to public urination (which is more common than you’d think, apparently), to felonies. Your situation is not as shocking to them as you think. Disclosing now will prevent problems passing the bar in the future…so when in doubt, just do it. Or would you rather discover at the end of law school that your history prevents you from sitting for the bar in your preferred state?

And…it doesn’t stop with your bar admission! Law is a highly regulated field. As lawyers we have access to extremely sensitive confidential information and we serve as fiduciaries for our clients. Practicing law is a privilege, not a right, and it is appropriate that the judgment and integrity of lawyers (as well as lawyers-to-be) are considered.

 

 

LSAT Study Groups

Do you work better in a group setting? Would the accountability of a study group help you in your LSAT preparation? The Pre-Law office would like to facilitate the creation of LSAT study groups. Utilize this sign-up to find other LSAT students with whom you can work:

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/508094DABA72DA57-lsat

1) Choose whether you prefer an afternoon, early evening, or evening time slot and which day of the week works best for you.

2) In the comment section, please note your preferred email address for group use.

3) We will send an email to students interested in the same times and let you take over planning where you will meet and whether or not you’d like to meet more than once a week!

Once you are in law school, study groups begin forming as soon as orientation is under way. Students in the same section of classes will create small groups to discuss, review, and study together, usually at established times each week either in the evenings or between classes. Many students are able to generate new arguments beyond their own because they have so frequently heard a variety of perspectives in depth in their study groups – and this skill is one that should be fostered long before exam preparation towards the end of the semester.

Make the most of your group – and get a head start on a study habit that will lend to your success in law school!  There will be e a new sign-up at the beginning of next semester to accommodate new schedules!

Law Fair Is Tomorrow — You Don’t Want to Miss It!!

Our biggest Law Fair ever is tomorrow! Over 120 law schools will be here for the Law Fair on Tuesday, October 23 from 11am-3pm at the ARC. Click on our LawSchoolFairNewsletter2012to access our special edition Newsletter for the list of attendees, as well as tips and suggestions for getting the most out of this great opportunity!  This newsletter contains information on what to wear, what questions to ask (page 2), and which schools are coming (pages 5 and 6).  And to help you focus your approach, check out pages 3 and 4 for some possible “target” schools lists.  This newsletter has ALL the details on the fair. 

We look forward to seeing you tomorrow at the ARC, 11am-3pm!


Yale Law School Webinar Announced

We have collaborated with Yale Law School to host the Yale Law Admissions Webinar on Wednesday, October 24 from 12:00-1 pm online. This session is intended to be interactive, providing an opportunity for students to talk directly with a Yale Law admissions staffer who can outline the Yale admissions process and provide more details about specifically what Yale is looking for in candidates. Interested students will want to visit Yale’s admission website and blog here prior to the session.

Registration for this event is required. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.  Note that those who register will also have access to a recording of the session afterward.

We also posted helpful Yale Law admissions information on our blog here, in case you missed it!

 

Law Fair — Special Edition!

Our biggest Law Fair ever is almost here! Over 120 (125 and counting!) law schools will be here for the Law Fair on Tuesday, October 23 from 11-3 at the ARC. Click on our LawSchoolFairNewsletter2012 to access our special edition Newsletter for the list of attendees, as well as tips and suggestions for getting the most out of this great opportunity! This newsletter contains information on what to wear, how to target specific schools, what to ask, and which schools are coming! Check it out for ALL the details on the fair.

Why should you attend the fair? Good question; read on.

If you are not yet applying to law school, you may be wondering how it will benefit you to attend. It’s a great opportunity to practice your networking skills. It’s also a good idea to begin building professional contacts of deans and directors who can provide helpful advice about their school’s application process and ultimately accept you into their schools. You can also find out helpful information now, while you are still in a position to build your resume or GPA, rather than finding out the day before you want to apply that they really would have preferred some work experience.

If you ARE currently applying to law school, why should you attend? It’s a great opportunity to meet the deans and directors who will be reading your applications. (I am consistently impressed with their ability to remember prospective students, right down to specific details about what they wore or what their personal statement was about.) It never hurts to make a great impression. You can also find out more about what specific schools are looking for, and even discover a school that you may not have considered but is actually a great fit for you. Finally, this is a great chance to collect some application fee waivers. It is definitely worth your time to attend, even for an hour or two.

Do you have to stay the entire time? No. Even an hour is enough time to target 4-5 of your top choice schools. Think about the schools you want to speak to, and make the most of however long you can attend. Check out the newsletter for lists of specific schools you may want to target based on geography, cost, specific program offerings, etc.

What should I say? We have specific examples of questions for the reps in the newsletter too. Good questions are ones that go beyond the basic “What are your medians?” question. How about asking what their favorite thing is about their school? Or asking the reps to name one thing about their school that can’t be found on their website or viewbook? If you know what area of law you want to specialize in, ask about that. Example: “I”m interested in environmental law and I see you have a clinic about that–can you tell me more about how students are selected for the clinic, and what types of cases they work on?”

Check out our LawSchoolFairNewsletter2012 for much more about the fair, and how you can get the most out of the experience. We’ve also included a list of attending schools and other details on our website here. See you at the fair!

Grammar Police: Top Errors in Personal Statements

Grammar can be tricky.  Just the other day, a friend and I consulted Grammar Girl after debating whether it is correct to say “myriad choices” or “myriad of choices.” (It turns out that either has become acceptable, although traditionalists still say that “myriad choices” would be more formally correct.)

Grammar matters a lot. The abilities to speak and write well are at the core of being an effective advocate, regardless of the area of law in which an attorney practices. Clients–as well as judges–judge how smart lawyers are by how well they speak and write.  Would you want to pay a lawyer $200+ an hour to produce sloppy letters and briefs full of typos and grammatical errors? Of course not. Clients pay lawyers for their excellent speaking and writing skills, as well as their attention to detail. Sloppy speaking and writing skills = no repeat clients.

In the context of a personal statement, law schools will be judging your ability to convey your message not only through the substance of your essay (which is important), but by the quality of your writing. We are seeing a lot of personal statements this time of year, which reminds me just how common grammar mistakes are in them. I’ve noticed that there are certain errors I consistently see. If I am seeing them, you know that deans and directors of admission at law schools are noticing them too. What are some grammar dangers to avoid?

  • Spell check is not enough. Say it with me. Spell check IS NOT enough. Spell check does not catch some of my favorite mistakes, like writing “statue” when you mean “statute” or “the” when “them” is what you meant. (One little letter makes a world of difference.) It won’t catch that you have written “perspective student” when you mean “prospective student.”  Spell check definitely won’t notice that you incorrectly left one reference to Stanford when the rest of your essay is about Northwestern. Tip: Use “Find and Replace” for that.
  • Possessive apostrophes. Hands down, the single biggest mistake I consistently see in students’ writing is incorrect usage of apostrophes, especially when indicating possession. Usually this involves adding apostrophes where they do not belong (like in “its mistakes”, which does not use an apostrophe for possessive) as well as missing an apostrophe where one does belong (in “students’ work”, for example).
  • Me, myself, and I. Are you the subject of the sentence? If so, “me” and “myself” don’t fit. You wouldn’t say “me walks into the room” or “myself prefers yellow.” Therefore, you also should not say “my friend and me walk into the room” or “my mom and myself prefer yellow.” (You should use “I” in both of those examples.) An especially egregious mistake is the dreaded incorrect plural possessive: “My brother and I’s apartment.” Yikes! Correct options would be to say “my apartment”, “our apartment”, or even “the apartment my brother and I share.”

Here is my number one grammar tip: READ IT OUT LOUD.  That’s right, read your essay out loud and listen. Does it sound right to you? Most of us know when something sounds “off”..even if we can’t articulate exactly why it is wrong. Circle the areas of the paper that sound odd to you, and give them some extra grammar attention.

Where can you turn for some grammar guidance?

Grammar Girl is a good online resource: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/

Our Writer’s Workshop wrote a helpful grammar guide:
http://www.cws.illinois.edu/workshop/writers/

For a compilation of several helpful grammar sites, visit
http://writing-program.uchicago.edu/resources/grammar.htm

I also really like Grammarly.com’s Facebook page, which posts fun examples of grammar gone awry. (That’s right, grammar can be fun.)

Law School Lunch Lectures – Get a feeling for law school!

Professor Henderson Lecture at Illinois College of Law- 9/19/12

I hope that any pre-law students who came to this lecture had a great time (and enjoyed the free lunch afterwards with so many of the U of I’s best professors, deans, and students!)  Attending these lectures is a great way to get a feeling for what law school is like, and to ponder legal questions that are presented.  I strongly encourage you not only to find a day that you can make it here on our campus – but to attend a lunch lecture at every one of your campus visits.  Most attendees don’t take notes, but I decided to type up lecture notes so that you could see what one type of lecture notes look like after being heavily influenced by law school note-taking.  I hope they are clear enough to make sense of the topic, and maybe even elicit thought or comment from you!  I’ll be sure to post future lunch lectures and encourage pre-law students to attend the ones that sound especially interesting and relevant.  Jamie and I will be at the Helen Gunnarsson Seminar tomorrow at the law school at 12:00 if you are interested in attending.  Hope to see you there!

 

 Human Capital Accounting for Lawyers

The issue addressed by Professor Henderson’s lecture is that the economic rules of law practice and legal education are now different due to globalization.  He broadly summarized this with the phrase “Asia, Automation, and Abundance.”  Before diving into any specifics in legal education or the flaws that are a part of the system that was established pre-globalization, he took the time to lay out the basis for his theories and the terminologies and influences that guided this development.

Human Capital Accounting (HCA) is a systematic gathering of facts, assigning significance to those facts, and then using the results to make better decisions.  There is a constant assessment of whether the added value of “better decisions” exceeds the cost of the decision-making process.  Professor Henderson cites C.F. Braun’s insights from earlier in the 20th century, his belief in sharing the “why” or the decision-making process with the people implementing those decisions, and the necessary “tooling” or “white collar tools” that were developed to create a successful field.  All this to say that the same successes can be found if we “retool” and modernize the profession in practice and in the legal preparation law schools provide.

Professor Henderson had a simple framework for the rest of his lecture:

1)       Articulate Goals (modernize legal education / practice)

2)      Present estimated costs and estimation of benefits that move toward that goal.

3)      Compare costs and benefits and make decisions.

 

To modernize the education and practice, law schools need to move away from a model that is built on creating lawyers for artisan trades and private practices that was established post WWII.  With increased access to legal information, what clients now have are sophisticated legal needs that require non-traditional legal services.  So there is not a clear economic rationale to train lawyers.  The needed human capital (HC) is an ability to collaborate over a complex domain of knowledge including: information technology, systems engineering, fianance, marketing, project management, and law.  The focus in law school should be communication and feedback around this diverse set of elements.  Here Prof. Henderson provided anecdotal evidence from the legal classes he is teaching and the peculiar class design that allowed him to see that predictors of good and successful group work was predicated on communication – useful feedback and an opportunity to understand and listen.

In assessing the costs of this type of system, it became clear that the hidden costs are the emotional costs in shifting to such a communication based model of legal education.  No specific numbers were given to analyze the costs of implementing what he coined as a “competency based curriculm with intensive feedback.”  He did however point to the fact that some states, like Michigan, have integrated competency models into their government programming.  Anyone can get an idea of what a competency model looks like by viewing this model at:  http://www.michigan.gov/documents/AG_BARS_14717_7.pdf

In making the decision to leap forward in legal education to using competency models focused on the domain of knowledge and skills in a modern world, Professor Henderson challenged law schools to step outside the prescribed curriculum and meet these modern needs.  Responding to questions about ABA standards and the “slowness” of change, he left with an explicit call to universities to be bold and willing to make these changes – to which Dean Smith jokingly responded with respect for the advice and a disclaimer that Professor Henderson does not represent legal counsel for the law school 😉

In all, I had mixed feelings about the lecture.  On one hand, I enjoyed hearing how successful legal minds contemplate the need for legal education reform – and on the other hand I listen as an educator (I taught for four years) who finds so much of what is said as glaringly obvious and inadequate in terms of actually leading to actual change.  What will lead to change I then ask?  I suppose a continued effort by scholars and practitioners like Henderson to spread this philosophy will contribute to that change.  Will a free market speak to it?  Can the US continue to be the leading authority?  These are huge questions and are always debatable – and if you have a thought please comment or stop in to chat!

Inside Admissions deans revealed

Anyone applying to law school will at some point wonder what admission deans are REALLY looking for in applicants. Students tell us frequently that this event, Inside Law School Admissions, is one of the most helpful for understanding the law school admissions process from the perspective of the law schools themselves.

This year Inside Law School Admissions will be held on Monday, October 22 in Lincoln Hall 1027. It is co-sponsored by Pre-Law Advising Services and the Pre-Law Honors Society. Come and join us for a frank discussion with these deans and directors of admission:

Amanda Goldsmith, Assistant Director of Admission at Saint Louis University School of Law
Sir Williams, Director of Admission, University of Wisconsin Law School, and
Michael Burns, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management and Director of Law Admission, DePaul University College of Law

This is a great opportunity to hear straight from the dean and directors. What errors drive them crazy in applications? What personal statement topics do they love or hate? How much impact do letters of recommendation really make? How do character and fitness disclosures affect their decisions?

This is a must-see event for any pre-law student. No registration is necessary.  Bring your questions for the dean and directors. See you there!

Scholarship Opportunities for Pre-Law Students

Are you familiar with the National and International Scholarships Program on campus? They work with high achieving students to help them apply for (and receive!) a variety of prestigious scholarship opportunities such as the Fulbright, Rhoades, and Truman scholarships. Take a moment to check out their website, as well as these upcoming workshops. Note below that some deadlines are fast approaching.

Do you want to change the world? Our campus is currently looking for exciting juniors* to nominate for the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

Are you bothered by an issue and trying to make changes to address a problem? The Truman program is looking for the academically strong student who has a passion for public service. Evaluators look for leadership ability, potential for influencing public policies, community service and extracurricular involvement, strong academic performance, and potential to perform well in a premier graduate school program. It awards $30,000 merit-based scholarships to U.S. citizen college students who wish to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in public service.

Public service includes a wide array of career possibilities, such as public health; local, state, or federal government; educational policy; international relations; conservation; and environmental protection. Candidates should be able to demonstrate leadership experiences in campus and community service activities. Truman Scholars have pursued many fields of study, such as agriculture, engineering, economics, education, government, history, international relations, law, political science, public administration, and public health. Scholars are required to work in public service for three of the seven years following completion of a Foundation funded graduate degree program as a condition of receiving funding.

The University of Illinois may nominate up to four students for the Truman Scholarship. The campus deadline is November 15, 2012 to be considered. If you are interested in applying, please plan to attend one of our informational sessions outlining criteria and the application process.

Tuesday, October 16 at 3:00

Or

Friday,  October 19 at 4:00.

Location: 807 South Wright Street, Room 514

Additional information about the award may be found at: http://www.topscholars.illinois.edu/prestigious/truman.html

*For the Truman Scholarship, a “Junior” is defined as someone either in their third and final year of undergraduate study, or someone planning to graduate between December 2013 and August 2014.

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Are you a high achieving student in a math, science, or engineering discpline?The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship might be in your future! Are you a junior or advanced sophomore?  Do you plan to continue on to graduate school for a PhD? Do you have a strong undergraduate research record? If so, please read on!

The Barry M. Goldwater National Scholarship offers 300 annual awards to undergraduate students (Illinois GPA 3.7 and above) who demonstrate strong evidence of contributing to the technological advances of the United States. The awards cover eligible expenses for tuition, fees, books, and room/board, up to a maximum of $7,500 annually. Current junior or exceptional sophomore students who are U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or resident aliens may apply.

Applicants should be committed to a Ph.D. in the research fields of mathematics, sciences, or engineering. Candidates who intend to study medicine are eligible if they plan a career in research rather than a career in private medical practice.

The National and International Scholarships Program will be outlining criteria and the process for students considering competing for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship at the following sessions:

Tuesday, October 16 at 4:00

Or

Friday, October 19 at 3:00.

Location: Campus Center for Advising and Academic Services, 807 S. Wright Street, Room 514

Endorsement by the designated Illinois faculty committee will be required.

The Illinois campus deadline for fullest consideration will be November 27, 2012.

Further information and a link to the online application may be found at: http://www.topscholars.illinois.edu/prestigious/goldwater.html

 

 

After the LSAT: What now?

You did it! The LSAT is over! Take a deep breath.

Right about now, most people want to take the next few weeks off before thinking about their applications. Smart applicants will really maximize these next few weeks by focusing on the remaining elements of their application so that they can get those applications out early, qualifying them for the most aid.

Now it’s time to dive in to the rest of your applications. What’s your time frame for completing them? A good time frame to submit your applications is anytime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. But you will need to consider some of these elements:

Deciding whether and where you’re going to apply early decision. You can only apply to one school through a binding early decision program. It’s time to consider whether you want to choose this option, in which case your early decision application will be due (depending on the school) on November 1, November 15, or December 1–in any case, a deadline you need to know. Applicants should carefully consider this option. In the case of binding early decision programs, you need to decide: how committed are you to this school? How important is aid to you? Would you go there even if you had to pay full price? Would you be willing to withdraw all of your other applications if X school admitted you? That is the level of commitment that binding early decision requires. Take some time to research and consider this big decision.

Letters of recommendation. We’ve been talking about these for ages. Hopefully, you’ve already got your letter writers lined up. If not, RUN, don’t walk, to your recommenders and get them lined up. You should expect at least 6-8 weeks for your recommender to write the letter, submit it, and for the LSAC to process it. That means if you want to apply by November 15, you need to get your recommendations lined up NOW!

Personal statement. Yep, it’s time to take that energy and time you were focusing on the LSAT and devote it to your personal statement. In addition to our personal statement workshops (which you can find on our event calendar here), we also have some tips and suggestions for the personal statement on our website. Spend some time thinking about your values, your 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 3-4 weeks thinking, writing, and editing. 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. (Call 333-9669 to set up a personal statement review appointment. Please email us your statement and resume two business days prior to your appointment so that we have time to review it.)

Transcripts. You’ll want to order a transcript from each undergraduate institution you attended. Visit the LSAC’s page for more information on the transcript ordering process.

Take a look at our earlier post called “What should I be doing now?” for even more application details.