Mark Your Calendars – Week of August 25

Happy First Day of Classes!  Here is a list of this week’s events.

Campus Events

Minority Association for Future Attorneys: On Tuesday, August 26th, 2014, at 6 p.m. in Noyes Lab 163, the Minority Association for Future Attorneys will have their first meeting of the 2014-2015 school year.

National Center for Supercomputing Students Pushing Innovation (NCSA SPIN) Program Internships — Open House Thursday, August 28

The University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing (NCSA) is looking for highly motivated, creative Illinois undergraduate students to participate in hands-on research fellowships during the 2014-2015 academic year. The NCSA SPIN (Students Pushing Innovation) program offers paid internships to Illinois students who can contribute to challenging projects alongside the center’s expert staff, or who would like to pursue their own innovative projects with support from NCSA colleagues and mentors.

To learn more about SPIN and collaborative opportunities at NCSA, attend the SPIN Open House from 3-5 p.m. Thursday Aug. 28 in the first floor atrium of the NCSA Building (1205 W. Clark St., Urbana). Then formulate a project or define an area of exploration and submit your proposal by Sept. 4.

For more information, go to http://spin.ncsa.illinois.edu/ or contact spin@ncsa.illinois.edu.

Luce Scholars Program — Information Sessions August 28 and 29

The National and International Scholarships Program (NISP) is offering a two-day informational event about the Luce Scholars Program.  The Luce is a one-year internship in East or Southeast-Asia, and designed specifically for students who do not have much prior experience in that region.  Starting August 28th, NISP will offer an informational overview session, featuring an informal discussion with a previous Luce Scholars. On August 29th, NISP will host a workshop designed to help students begin to craft their personal statements.

The dates and times are as follows. All events will be held in 514 IUB.

August 28th, 3:30-4:30pm – Informational session and discussion with former Luce Scholars.

August 29th 3:30-4:30pm – Workshop on how to craft a Personal Statement.

More information about the Luce can be found here: http://www.topscholars.illinois.edu/luce.

Illinois Trial Team: Information Sessions August 27 and 28th

Thinking about law school and intrigued by the idea of being a trial attorney? Then this opportunity might be just what you are looking for! The Illinois Trial Team allows undergrads to prepare and perform real trials in real courtrooms in front of real judges and attorneys. This organization serves as a combination for those interested in going to law school, those interested in debate, those interested in theater, and those interested in speech team. No experience is necessary, and all majors are welcome. The team recruits new members each Fall!  The team will be holding informational meetings on Wednesday August 27th and Thursday August 28th at 6:30pm at the UIUC College of Law (504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue). For more information, go to www.IllinoisTrialTeam.com; Facebook: “Illinois Trial Team”; Twitter:@ILTrialTeam.  Questions? Send your emails to Illinoistrialteam@gmail.com.

Conflict Resolution Training Program — Applications Due September 1

Mediation Services in the Office for Student Conflict Resolution is currently accepting Fall 2014 applications for the Conflict Resolution Training Program, and this year we are offering an additional two-day advanced training opportunity for students in the class!

The program introduces the participants to mediation and other alternative conflict resolution concepts and is focused on developing conflict resolution skills to help them address conflict they may encounter in the future. It can be particularly helpful to students in leadership positions! Practice scenarios include a variety of situations, including roommate, personal, organizational, and work conflict. Students who complete this program will receive a certificate of completion and gain a skill to share on their resume.

Applications are being accepted now and must be in by September 1, 2014 at 1 p.m. for full consideration. Apply online now! Visit http://www.conflictresolution.illinois.edu/crt/default.asp for the application and for more information.

Sessions will be on Tuesdays at 4 p.m. from September 9 to November 4, 2014. The advanced training will be offered on November 11 and November 18.

Career Center

Unless otherwise indicated, Career Center events will be held at 715 S. Wright Street.

Finding An Internship: Wednesday, August 27, 5-6pm

Creating Powerful Resumes and Cover Letters: Thursday, August 28, 4-5pm

For more information and to register for these workshops, go here: https://www.careercenter.illinois.edu/.

 

Other Events

Michigan State University College of Law Webinar: Tips for Assembling a Competitive Law School Application, Wednesday, August 27, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

This webinar will offer a wide-ranging series of recommendations for individuals who plan to applying for fall 2015 admission, as well as for college freshmen and sophomores who are giving thought to law school. Topics to be covered in this webinar include:

  • Recommendations for when to apply and where to apply for admission
  • Suggestions for writing an effective personal statement and securing letters of recommendation
  • How to tailor your resume for law school admission committees
  • Tips for what to include in a supplemental statement(s)
  • Factors relied upon by admission committees

Following presenters’ remarks will be a 10-minute Q and A segment during which participants will be able to ask questions via the chat function.

For more information and to register, go here: http://www.law.msu.edu/admissions/webinars/Tips-Competitive-application.html.

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Mark Your Calendars: Job and Externship Opportunities; FREE LSAT 101 Webinar — Week of April 14

PLAS Events and Opportunities

Applying to Law School Worshop for Fall 2014 Applicants

TODAY, 4-5PM, 1022 LINCOLN HALL

Calling all students planning to apply to law school this fall! There is plenty that you can do over the summer to ensure that you apply EARLY–which is ideal for admission and financial aid for law school. We will give an in-depth overview of the elements of the law school application, as well as demonstrating how to work within the Law School Admission Council’s Credential Assembly Service. If you want to know how to get letters of recommendation, how to upload your resume, how many schools you should apply to, and where to send your transcript, this is the workshop for you. No registration necessary.  Note: We have a separate workshop covering personal statements and resumes for law school applicants, set for Tuesday, April 22, which we encourage participants to attend as well.  If you would like to attend the Personal Statement Workshop, please go here and click on the event to register: http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508.

Personal Statement and Resume Workshop

Tuesday, April 22, Noon-1pm, Room 514 IUB

Applying to law school this fall? This workshop will introduce fall applicants to the personal statement and how to write it. We’ll help you understand what a personal statement is all about, including who will be reading it and what they will be looking for. We’ll also give tips and suggestions for how you can go about writing this very important part of the application. In addition, we will talk about strategies to craft the best possible resume.  Get started now, and give yourself all summer to perfect your personal statement and resume!

Chicago Summer Externship with the CFTC –Applications DUE  NOON TODAY!

The Chicago office of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Enforcement seeks summer 2014 externship applications from undergraduate students interested in a future legal career.

The Commission is an independent, non-partisan federal agency that protects market users and the public from fraud, manipulation, abusive practices, and systemic risk and fosters open, competitive, and financially sound markets.  The Division of Enforcement investigates potential violations of the Commodity Exchange Act and Commission Regulations and, at the direction of the Commission, prosecutes alleged violations in U.S. District Courts across the country.  The Division of Enforcement also provides expert and technical assistance with case development and trials to U.S. Attorneys, federal and state regulators, and international authorities. You can find out more about the office here: http://www.cftc.gov/LawRegulation/Enforcement/index.htm.

Undergraduate externs with the Division of Enforcement will participate in investigations and litigations led by attorneys and investigators and experience witness interviews, sworn testimony, legal research and writing projects, analysis of materials gathered during investigations and litigations, and educational training programs.  Division of Enforcement staff will also mentor students and provide educational and career guidance.

Externships will last for 8 weeks and require approximately 35 hours per week.

To participate in the summer externship, applicants must have completed at least 4 semesters of college, but not yet have graduated from their degree program.  Offers are also contingent on an applicant’s ability to demonstrate U.S. citizenship or permanent residency and successfully complete a background check (prior to beginning the externship).  Finally, applicants must be able to receive course credit, through ENG 451 or otherwise (such as through your academic department). More information about ENG 451 can be found below.

To apply, interested students should email a cover letter and resume (in either Word or .pdf format) to Judy Argentieri at jargenti@illinois.edu by NOON TODAY, Monday, April 14!!. In your cover letter, please indicate what interests you about the position, discuss what skills you can bring to the position, and address any other significant time commitments you will have this summer.

ABOUT ENG 451: Success in the Workplace This online 2 credit course is open to undergraduates who have accepted a career-related internship or co-op this summer. ENG 451 is a guided experiential learning course designed to prepare you for a successful transition from campus to the workplace. Lecture topics covered include basic business concepts and insights related to interpersonal and communication skills. Over the course of the summer, you will complete a project that will lead you to develop the skills that are covered in the course lectures.

For more information about ENG 451, visit http://engineering.illinois.edu/engage/career-services/success-in-the-workplace/.

Attention Seniors: Paralegal Job Opportunity

PLAS was contacted about this job opportunity.  Note — this position is also listed in the Career Center’s I Link database, which you can access here: https://i-link-illinois-csm.symplicity.com/.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan seeks a current senior or recent college graduate for a full-time paralegal/litigation specialist position in its Chicago office. Starting annual salary is $40,000. Position to start immediately or upon graduation this spring.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is the largest law firm in the United States devoted solely to business litigation, with over 500 lawyers and offices across the globe – including in Tokyo, London, and Moscow. Learn more at http://www.quinnemanuel.com.

THE JOB: As a litigation specialist at Quinn Emanuel, you will participate substantively in all aspects of the firm’s practice. For those considering a career in law, you will gain unparalleled experience performing substantive tasks that most firms reserve for associate attorneys. Typical tasks include conducting factual research, writing analyses, interacting with expert witnesses, reviewing documents, substantively assisting attorneys with preparation for depositions, hearings, and trials – and participating actively at depositions, hearings, and trials. At Quinn Emanuel, attorneys will seek out and value your opinions and insights on important strategic decisions.

EXAMPLES OF CURRENT CASES: Quinn Emanuel’s Chicago office works on some of the most interesting and high-profile cases in the country. Here are some of examples of what we’re working on right now. Quinn Emanuel represents Google, Motorola, Samsung, Qualcomm, Cisco and other high technology companies in the highly publicized patent “wars.” Most recently much of the patent litigation has related to the disputes between Apple and the iPhone and companies who manufacture smartphones running Google’s Android operating system. We also represent companies like Uber, comScore and emerging start-up companies on cutting edge class action and privacy issues in areas where the law is currently developing. One difference between our firm and other large litigation firms is that we go to trial more often than any other firm and expect our litigation specialists to be eager for the opportunity to see how high stakes litigation really works from the inside of the process.

WHO WE WANT: First and foremost, we’re looking for someone smart. We value strong research skills, keen analytical ability, and clear and forceful writing – and we want someone who has demonstrated these skills through high academic achievement. We require that applicants have at least an “A-” grade point average. Our ideal litigation specialist has the intellect to contribute meaningfully to our practice and the confidence and communication skills to effectively express his or her ideas. While not a prerequisite, we are interested in applicants with a strong technical background in engineering, computer science, or programming (as patent law is one focus of our practice). Previous legal experience is not required.

HOW TO APPLY: Send your resume, cover letter, and transcript (unofficial) to yeshiahuweinstein@quinnemanuel.com. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit a writing sample of up to six pages if available. Applicants are also strongly encouraged to submit applications as soon as possible.

Other Campus Events and Opportunities

The Career Center

Unless otherwise indicated, all events will be held in the Career Center Conference Room, 715 S. Wright Street. For more information, or to register, go here: http://www.careercenter.illinois.edu/.

Successful Interviewing: Tuesday, April 15, 4pm

Careers in the Federal Government: Wednesday, April 16, 4pm

Winning Resumes and Cover Letters: Thursday, April 17, 4pm

Internship Essentials: Monday, April 21, 4pm

 

Attention Students Interested in Undergraduate Research at UIUC! 

Come join Research as Students at Illinois (RSI) for their informational event on how to get involved in undergraduate research on campus! We will walk you through how to narrow down your research focus, find potential professors to work with, and what to expect once you find a lab. The meeting will take place during Undergraduate Research Week on April 16th at 6:30 PM in Noyes 217. Contact – John, ResearchStudentsIllinois@gmail.com. For more information, find us on Facebook.

Writer’s Workshop — Personal Statement Workshops

The Writer’s Workshop is offering brief personal statement workshops for students (primarily undergraduates) who are writing personal statements or any other type of application essay. Students should call 333-8796 to a reserve a spot at one of these times/locations:

Monday, April 21, 5-6 PM, Lincoln Hall 1090; Tuesday, April 22, 5-6 PM, Lincoln Hall 1090

Sessions will be interactive, starting with a brief presentation given by our consultants introducing the concept of personal statements, followed by a discussion on some strategies and pitfalls, sample statements, and time for questions and answers. Students will also have an opportunity to get individual feedback on their own personal statements if time allows. Call 333-8796 to reserve your place!

Other Pre-Law Opportunities

Legal Careers Update: Report from the Executive
Director of the National Association of Law Placement

Co-sponsored by Michigan State University College of Law and the Midwest Association of Prelaw Advisors (MAPLA)

Wednesday, April 16,
11:00am to 11:45 a.m., CST  

REGISTER NOW

This free webinar will offer a wealth of data relating to the legal market for
recent law school graduates:  hiring and compensation data for new
lawyers, an overview of law graduate career paths by employer type, trends in
large firm hiring, and much more.  The presenter will be James G. Leipold,
Executive Director of the National Association for Law Placement, a legal
professional organization whose members include attorneys, legal employers, and
law school career services personnel from across the country.

LSAT 101 Webinar: An Introduction to the Law School Admission
Test

Wednesday, April 16,
6:30 to 7:30 p.m., CST
 

REGISTER NOW

This free webinar, sponsored by the Michigan State University College of Law, will offer valuable insights regarding the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), including how and why law school admission committees use it; skills that the examination seeks to measure; an analysis of each LSAT question type; strategies for maximizing performance; and, recommendations for creating an effective LSAT preparation plan. The primary presenter is John Rood, president and founder of NextStep Test Preparation. REGISTER NOW!

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After the LSAT: What do I do 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 them.)

Transcripts. You’ll want to order a transcript from each undergraduate institution you attended. Visit the LSAC here, http://www.lsac.org/jd/applying-to-law-school/cas/requesting-transcripts, for more information on the transcript ordering process.

Take a look at our earlier post called “The Application Process: LSAC Tips”, http://publish.illinois.edu/prelawadvising/2013/09/18/the-application-process-lsac-tips/, for even more application details.

 

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Fall 2013: Important Dates and Deadlines

Below is an abbreviated list of dates, deadlines and events for Fall 2013 that may be of interest to pre-law students. These dates do not include all PLAS programs. Visit our online Event Calendar to view all upcoming workshops at http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508

Date                             Event                                                        

September 3                Deadline to register for the October LSAT. www.lsac.org

September 5                Illinois Study Abroad Fair 

www.studyabroad.illinois.edu

September 9                Deadline to add a semester course

September 10              Illinois in Washington Information Sessions

www.washington.illinois.edu

September 17              Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Visit

IUB Room 514, 4-5pm

September 17              Michigan State University College of Law Webinar:

                                    Suggestions for Strengthening Your Law School Application

MSU College of Law is offering a series of FREE webinars on a variety of topics relating to law school and a legal career.  MSU kicks off this year with suggestions on how to craft a strong law school application.  If you would like to learn more about this and upcoming webinars, and to register, go here: http://www.law.msu.edu/admissions/webinars/Suggestions-for-Strengthening-webinar.html.

September 19              First Pre-Law Orientation workshop

Visit our online calendar, http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508to view all workshops and to register

September 26              First Personal Statement & Resume workshop

Visit our online calendar, http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508to view all workshops and to register

October 5                     LSAT—Register at www.lsac.org by September 3

October 12                   Kaplan Practice LSAT/Princeton Review Practice LSAT

Kaplan Test Prep is offering a FREE practice LSAT test at their 616 East Green Street location. For more information and to register, go to www.kaptest.com. Princeton Review is also offering a FREE practice LSAT at the UIUC College of Law, 504 East Pennsylvania Avenue. For more info and to register, go to www.princetonreview.com. Other test prep companies will offer similar opportunities online.  Do your research and take advantage of these opportunities to help evaluate where you are with regard to your LSAT preparation.  

October 18                   Deadline to drop a semester class or to elect credit/no credit

October 22                   Law School Fair

It’s the biggest pre-law event of the year! 10-2 at the ARC. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet reps from 100 law schools! Click on the link to see details of last year’s Law School Fair. Info on 2013 will be posted soon!

                                     http://www.prelaw.illinois.edu/lawschoolfair.html.

October 29                  Harvard Law School Visit

514 IUB 11am-Noon

November 1 -15          Early Decision Applications due

This is also a good target date to complete your law school applications.

November 4                 Deadline to register for December 7th LSAT

                                       Register online at www.lsac.org

November 25-29         Fall Break

This is a good time to visit law schools! Call the admissions office to see when they are open; most will be open earlier in the week.

December 11              Last Day of Classes

December 13-20        Final Exams

 

 

 

 

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What should you do this summer?

So your exams wrapped up last week.  You are now surfacing from extensive sleep recuperation.  Now is the time to decide how to use your summer.  Here are some suggestions.

1. Shadow an attorney(s).  Before you take the plunge and decide to go to law school you should have an understanding of what lawyers really do (Hint — watching countless hours of TV shows featuring lawyers doesn’t count).  Do you have lawyers in your family?  Do you or your parents/roommates/classmates know lawyers?  Now is the time to network and meet these people.  Start by inviting them out for coffee or a soda and ask them to talk about a typical day; what they like about the law; what they don’t like about being a lawyer, etc.  Then ask if you can spend a day shadowing them so you can experience/witness what they are telling you. 

2. Research law schools. You can always conduct research on line.  However, another option to get more information about specific law schools and the application process is to attend an LSAC Law School Forum.  

The forums are a series of free law school recruitment fairs, each of which attracts an average of 160 law schools from across the nation, representing public and private, large and small, rural and urban law schools. The Law School Forums give students an opportunity to talk informally with law school representatives and get firsthand information about admission requirements, course offerings, campus life, and financial aid.

The LSAC will be hosting a Law School Forum in Chicago on Saturday, July 13, 9am-4pm at the Chicago Marriott Downtown, 540 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611. Admission is free and registration is easy, and you can register online here

In addition, as we mentioned in last week’s blog and email, you should mark your calendars now for another great opportunity to meet law school admissions folks.  On Tuesday, October 22, PLAS will host the annual Law School Fair, 11am-3pm on campus at the ARC!! Last year we hosted over 110 law schools from around the country so this is a must attend event!!

3. Start working on your applications. If you are applying to law school in the fall, work on the parts of you application that you can.  Your top priority should be preparing for either the June or October LSAT. Next, if you haven’t already done it, you should open up your Credential Assembly Service account with the LSAC.  Go here for more information. http://www.lsac.org/jd/apply/cas.asp. You should also request your letters of recommendation.  June LSAT takers — once the test is over, start working on your personal statement and resume.  October LSAT takers — in between studying for the LSAT, work on your personal statement and resume.  Check out the PLAS web page for suggestions on how to prepare these items. http://www.prelaw.illinois.edu/applying/index.html.

Remember: Law schools will start posting their applications online in mid-August.  Admissions is rolling so it is always a good idea to file your applications as early as possible.  Do not wait until fall to work on these important application elements!

From the PLAS Office — Pre-law advising appointments will be available later this summer.  After June 24, call the PLAS Office at (217) 333-9669 to schedule an appointment for early July.

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Spring Break Edition: Things To Do

Spring Break starts at the end of this week.  Here are some suggestions for how to use the break wisely.  

Seniors Applying This Cycle

1. Applications. If you haven’t already done so….submit your applications!!!!!  I know several law schools have extended their deadlines but this is a rolling process and many schools have few if any seats (or financial aid) left to give to applicants.

2. Decision Time.  For those of you that submitted applications much earlier this cycle and consequently are now weighing all your options — really evaluate your offers and try to come to a decision in the next couple of weeks.  Those of you who have been in to see me have been advised to create a table or spreadsheet listing the items most important to you (i.e., cost/scholarship, employment numbers, bar passage rate, location) to help you decide among your offers.  Also make plans to visit the law schools if you haven’t already done so — you would be surprised about the number of students who love a school on paper but are not thrilled with the school once they visit.  Law school is a HUGE investment — find the time to visit the schools!!!!

Juniors Applying in the Fall

1. Letters of Recommendation. Start thinking about whom you should ask to write your letters of recommendation and plan to request your LORs BEFORE you leave campus for the summer.  Applicants frequently make the mistake of waiting until fall to approach their professors and then find themselves waiting quite a while.  Your professors are busy so you need to plan ahead to give them enough time to write your letters… and the letters that others are requesting.

2. Attend PLAS Programs! Attending our upcoming PLAS programs will help you get a jump start on your applications.  Remember — most law schools admit applicants on a rolling basis so the earlier you apply, the better!

  • Financing Law School, Monday April 1, 5-6pm, College of Law, 504 East Pennsylvania Avenue, Classroom A. Our Financial Aid Series continues! With so many different aid offers from various law schools….how do students choose? Julie Griffin, Assistant Director of Financial Aid at the College of Law, and Donna Davis, a current 2L and Pre-Law Advising Graduate Assistant, are here to walk you through it! Ms. Griffin and Ms. Davis will show you what a law school financial aid offer looks like and demonstrate how to evaluate aid packages and make fair comparisons among schools. No registration required. 
  • Applying to Law School — A Workshop for Fall Applicants — Monday, April 15, 4-5:00 pm, Room 1027 Lincoln Hall. Applying to law school early in the application cycle can result in more admission offers, more aid, and much less stress. This workshop is designed for students who will be applying to law school this fall and want to maximize their law school opportunities. We will provide an overview of the law school application process and share a timeline for optimal application results. No registration required.
  • Personal Statement Workshop for Fall Applicants — Thursday, April 18, 12-1:00pm, Room 514 Illini Union Bookstore Building.  Law school applicants consistently say that the personal statement took much more time to write than they expected. This workshop will provide an overview of the personal statement and the resume for law school applications. Please register by clicking on this link http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508 to our Event Calendar. Once there, please select this event and then click on “register.”  Registration is required so that we can provide enough seating and materials for everyone.

All Pre-Law Students

1. Find and apply for summer internships NOW.  Not sure where to start?  Go here, http://publish.illinois.edu/prelawadvising/2012/12/20/internship-newsletter/, to access our Internship Newsletter that was originally posted on December 20.  It contains 17 pages of information on internships and jobs.  Many of these postings have March deadlines so start looking now!

2. Stay informed… about all of our PLAS Programs, information sessions, updates on the legal profession, etc.  How???

 Enjoy your break!

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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.)

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This I Believe: A great way to start your personal statement

The current “One Book, One Campus” selection is This I Believe: The personal philosophies of remarkable men and women. I’ve read this book (and several other volumes of This I Believe) and I regularly listen to the podcasts, which challenge ordinary people to distill their personal philosophies into very brief essays.

What do you believe? This could be a great way to begin writing your personal statement. I recommend checking out the book and the podcasts to spark your thinking. (You can get the book for $10.50 at the Illini Union Bookstore, and the podcasts are free if you search for them on iTunes.) It’s very hard to distill our core beliefs into one brief essay, but the value of this exercise is that it forces you to pick what beliefs are the most important to you and then try to concisely articulate why. What better way to introduce yourself to a law school than by speaking to your core values?

The Executive Director of This I Believe, Dan Gediman, is also coming to campus next Thursday, October 4 at 7:00 at the Illini Union. To find out more about this lecture and upcoming events related to the One Book, One Campus program, visit http://www.union.illinois.edu/involvement/oboc/ I hope I see you there. And I hope that this exercise helps spark your thinking about what to write on the personal statement.

 

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