Letters of Recommendation – The Sooner the Better

Law schools frequently stress the importance of having quality letters of recommendation. A letter of recommendation can influence whether a prospective student receives an acceptance letter.  For that reason, you must carefully select a professor or supervisor (if choosing an employer).* If a student chooses a recommender who does not know them well, the letter will fail to impress admissions officers.  In fact, such a “general” letter of recommendation can negatively influence an application.  Prospective law students should begin acquainting themselves with their professors early to avoid this unenviable situation.

In order to achieve a personal connection with your professors, visit them during office hours.  Professors have office hours so they can get to know their students and help them better understand the subject matter of the course.  Stop by early in the semester and explain to your professor that you would like to get to know them better.  Bring questions about material that was covered in a recent class or try to focus the conversation on a professor’s area of expertise.  Often times, professors focus their time on a specific area of interest within their field.  Employ your research skills and try to determine the professor’s area of interest.  Then, inquire about that topic.

Additionally, speak with your professors about your personal and professional goals. Let them know that you are considering law school. Ask for feedback and advice regarding your suggested path. Let them get to know the real you. A strong personal connection will come through in a letter of recommendation. A professor who knows you better will write a more impressive and meaningful letter on your behalf.

Stay for ten or fifteen minutes and thank your professor for his or her time.  Now, your professor will recognize you and will know you personally each time you contribute in class.  Go back to office hours as needed.  Provided you do well in the course, you have established the necessary groundwork for requesting a letter of recommendation at a later date.

For students who have waited to ask for letters of recommendation and would like to apply during this admission cycle, the process will be similar but more condensed. Do not wait to approach your professors until the week before you plan on submitting your applications. Make an appointment to see either your former professors or your current ones as soon as possible. At the meeting, ask whether the professor would be willing to write a letter of recommendation, and if so, offer to provide them with any information they desire. Such information may include: the grade you received in class, extracurricular activities and interests, a résumé, etc. Be sure to provide the requested information to your professor as soon as possible and stay in contact with your recommender throughout the process. The sooner you have your letters of recommendation finished, the closer you are to submitting your applications – so get to it!


*Typically, prospective students should choose professors to write their letters of recommendation unless they have been out of school for a while.  For more information, see the University of Chicago’s thoughts on the topic.

Mark Your Calendars — Week of August 31

PLAS Events

Pre-Law 101 (for Freshmen or students new to pre-law): Tuesday, September 8, 4:00-5:00 pm in IUB 504.

This workshop is for any Illinois student who is new to pre-law. We will cover: What it means to be a pre-law student at Illinois; the profile of a successful law school applicant; building a pre-law resume during undergraduate years; and what helpful resources exist on campus. We will answer all of your pre-law questions! This workshop is primarily aimed at first year students but all students are welcome. First year students should attend a Pre-Law 101 prior to setting up an individual Pre-Law Advising appointment. Select any Pre-Law 101 session that suits your schedule–each covers the same material. Please register here.

Perfecting Your Personal Statement & Resume for Law School: Monday, September 21, 4:00 – 5:00 pm in IUB 514.

The personal statement and resume are a law school applicant’s opportunity to tell a school all about yourself and why you will make a great addition to their class. Students consistently tell us that this is the hardest part of the application, so we have developed this workshop to provide some insight. We will cover: What the personal statement is; how to begin writing it; what to include and exclude; writing separate addenda; how the personal statement and resume should work together; and an overview of the law school resume. Bring your questions because there will be plenty of time to ask them. Please register here.

Campus Events

Career Center Workshops – Unless otherwise indicated, all workshops are held at the Career Center, 715 S. Wright Street. For more information or to register for an event, click here.

  • The Career Center 101, Tuesday, September 1, 3-4 pm.
  • Finding an Internship, Wednesday, September 2, 4-5 pm.
  • Career Fair Prep: Maximize Your Experience, Thursday, September 3, 4-5 p.m.
  • Career Fair Prep: Maximize Your Experience, Tuesday, September 8, 4-5 p.m.
  • Creating Powerful Resumes & Cover Letters, Tuesday, September 8, 5-6 p.m.

Volunteer Fair: Tuesday, September 1 in the Illini Union, 10:30 am – 1:30 pm.

The Office of Volunteer Programs off the Volunteer Fair to explore volunteering and service opportunities that are available on-campus and around the Champaign-Urbana community

Illinois Abroad Day: Sept. 1, 11:00 am-5:00 pm (Visit the Illinois Abroad Website here for the detailed schedule) 

11 a.m.-2 p.m. (hosted by Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange): Visit with study abroad advocates and professionals on the Main Quad and learn more about campus wide programs and the steps you can take to study abroad.  Attend concurrent workshops being offered around campus focusing on the ‘how tos’ of study abroad.

2-5 p.m. (hosted by participating colleges): Program-specific information will be available for students at colleges across campus including Engineering, ACES, Business, LAS, Law, and Education.  Colleges are invited to put their best study abroad programs forward: equipping students to best integrate the experience.

5 p.m.: Keynote Lecture held in 100 Gregory Hall.

Engineering Career Services Career Fair: Wednesday, September 9 and Thursday, September 10 at the ARC. Begins at 8:30 am.

Held at the ARC, this career fair offers companies an opportunity to engage with highly motivated students in engineering-related fields. For more information, please visit http://ecs.engineering.illinois.edu/recruiting-students/career-fairs/.

Provost’s Undergraduate Student Advisory Board
Application: UG Advisory Board App 2015-16

Applications are now being accepted for this board, which provides feedback and generates ideas for programs, academic policies, and initiatives established or overseen by the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Innovation. Meetings will take place 12:00-1:00 pm on Oct 8, Nov. 3, and Dec. 1, and lunch is provided.

Qualifying students will:

  • Be undergraduates for the 2015-2016 academic year,
  • Have an interest in academic affairs/campus initiatives
  • Demonstrate a strong record (GPA of 3.0+)
  • Be involved on campus.

Click on the link above to access the application. All applications due Sept. 11.

College of Law Events

Adam Liptak will deliver “The Roberts Court at Ten: A Reporter’s Reflections” for the fall 2015 Paul M. Van Arsdell, Jr. Memorial Lecture on Litigation and the Legal Profession. Liptak is the Supreme Court correspondent of The New York Times. Lunch will be provided for lecture attendees. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Check the College of Law’s website for additional events that are open to public: http://law.illinois.edu/.

Stayed tuned for more excellent pre-law programming and have a great week!


Welcome Back Edition

Welcome Class of 2019 and Welcome Back Pre-Law Students!

Hello students!  Our first blog posting of the 2015-2016 school year features a quick overview of a few events happening on campus in the next week and a brief update on PLAS.  We will resume our regular blogging schedule August 31.  Our postings will include updates on PLAS programs, campus events, internships (scroll down for a new addition to the list), and information on a variety of pre-law topics and items of interest so keep checking in!! One quick announcement for seniors preparing for the October 3, 2015 LSAT: the regular registration deadline is Friday, August 28! To register, go to www.lsac.org.

Upcoming Campus Events

Quad Day Events: Sunday, August 23!

The semester kicks off this weekend with Quad Day, Sunday, August 23, Noon-4pm.  Quad Day will introduce you to over 600 registered student organizations (RSOs)! Go and learn more about how you can make the most of your time at the University of Illinois and join an organization! Remember — law schools like to see applicants who are both good students and who are involved in their community.  Note: the Illinois Trial Team is one RSO that will have a booth to answer questions and to sign up interested students.  Scroll down for more information about the Illinois Trial Team.

Want to cool off after Quad Day? Head to Nevada Street to experience the Taste of Nevada, 3-5pm, Sunday, August 23, and relax at the Asian American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural Latina, and Native American House (between Mathews and Goodwin in Urbana) to meet and greet staffs at all three places. Find out what these centers are doing for their upcoming programs for the year. Snacks and refreshments will be served.

Social Justice Social with DiversityEd and Friends: Sunday, August 23rd, 3:30-6:30 pm (immediately following Quad Day) on the University YMCA Front Lawn (1001 S. Wright St., Champaign)

Care about social justice? Love socializing with cool people? Come to the first ever “Social Justice Social” cookout, sponsored by the University YMCA, YWCA at the University of Illinois, and U of I’s Diversity & Social Justice Education. Join together with other students who care about social justice issues and celebrate the start of a new school year. All students are welcome!

Other Campus Events and Opportunities

LGBT Resource Center Welcome Back Event — Tuesday, August 25, 4-6pm, Illini Union

Celebrate the start of a new year with food, music, and opportunities to meet LGBT Resource Center Staff and RSOs, and learn about a variety of campus resources!

Luce Scholars Program — Information Sessions August 27 and 28

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 27th, NISP will offer an informational overview session, featuring an informal discussion with previous Luce Scholars. On August 28th, NISP will host a workshop designed to help students begin to craft their applications.

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

August 27th, 3:30-4:30pm – Informational session and discussion with former Luce Scholars.

August 28th 3:30-4:30pm – Workshop on how to craft a Luce application.

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

Illinois Trial Team

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 students interested in law school, debate, acting, and public speaking based activities. No experience is necessary, and all majors are welcome. The team recruits new members each Fall! Prospective members should make sure to visit the Illinois Trial Team’s booth on Quad Day, Sunday, August 23! In addition, the team will be holding informational meetings on Wednesday August 26th and Thursday August 27th 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.

Register for the LENS Diversity Certificate

The LENS (Learn, Envision, Navigate, Synthesize) Diversity Certificate Program is a two-semester program that encourages students to view and explore diversity, social justice, and intercultural relations to develop skills for functioning in a diverse and global society. Get a certificate for taking classes, developing projects with a team of your peers, and attending events focused on expanding your social justice lens!
To learn more about the program or register, visit the website at https://oiir.illinois.edu/diversityed/lens-certificate. Applications for the 2015-2016 LENS Cohort are due by Wednesday, September 2nd.

Interfaith Internship Program

Are you interested in interfaith conversations? What about working with students from other faiths? The interfaith internship will bring together students from different faith or non-faith background to lead conversations throughout the school year based on topics that are related to interfaith. Each intern will receive course credit for independent study and will work closely with Interfaith In Action student group. To apply, click here. Questions? Contact Ross Wantland at wantland@illinois.edu. Applications are due Wednesday, September 2, 2015.

 PLAS Updates for Fall 2015

1. What’s going on at PLAS? All of our events are listed in our Event Calendar here: http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508.  You may also look at the right side of this page for info on events coming up in the next few weeks, which include a FREE practice LSAT! Note that some of our workshops have limited seating, like the Pre-Law 101 sessions and the practice LSAT, so you’ll want to register for those in advance. We will add a few programs as the semester progresses.  Be sure to check our blog August 31  for an overview of the semester’s events!

2. Attend a Pre-Law 101 Workshop. If you are a new pre-law student you’ll definitely want to attend a Pre-Law 101 Workshop, which will answer most of your questions about what it means to be pre-law and how you can maximize your opportunities as an undergrad. These sessions are all listed in our Event Calendar and you can register there.

3. How do we keep in touch? Blog, Facebook group, Twitter, email
The best way to keep up with pre-law news is to read this blog and join our Facebook group or follow us on Twitter (@UIUC Pre-Law). We send occasional emails but we don’t want to clog your inbox…so instead, we update this blog, Twitter and our Facebook page at least once a week.

4. Making an appointment….is easy. Call 333-9669. Except please, if you’re sick, stay home in your jammies! You can call us at the appointment time if you really need to talk. Otherwise, please reschedule.

Practice LSAT opportunity

Pre-Law Advising Services has just added a Practice LSAT on September 18 to the fall calendar! This is a great opportunity to take the LSAT “cold” to get a baseline score. Or, if you are planning on taking the October or December LSAT, you can get more practice in a realistic classroom setting. This is a full length, actual, previously administered LSAT which will be proctored and timed. Seating is limited; location and other details will be sent after students register here.

New Pre-Law Chapter of National Black Law Students Association

Illinois pre-law students now have the opportunity to participate in a new pre-law student organization. We are sharing this information for all interested Illini.

Still searching for the perfect law related, extracurricular activity? Looking to get more involved on campus? Your search is over, as a Pre-Law Chapter of the National Black Law Students Association has been chartered on campus! Students who become members of NBLSA’s Pre-Law Division will join the membership of a prestigious organization that continues to culturally transform the legal community.

As a member of the Pre-Law Division, you gain access to irreplaceable resources, invaluable networking opportunities, as well as exceptional mentorship. This year, we hope to provide our members with the tools necessary to make law school dreams a reality—from LSAT prep to First Year Success, and everything in between. Membership also makes you eligible for NBLSA scholarships, fellowships, conventions and programs. This year, Pre-Law members will also have the opportunity to participate in advocacy competitions, such as the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition, the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition and the NBLSA Nelson Mandela International Negotiations Competition.

Please visit this website if you are interested in learning more about NBSLA and its Pre-Law Division. For more information about the Illinois Pre-Law Chapter or if would like to join, please email chapter President, Subria Whitaker at swhitak2@illinois.edu.

3 easy ways to get to know law schools!

Are you planning to apply to law school this fall? Now is a great time to start getting to know your law schools. Maybe there’s one school that you already know you are super interested in. You have a friend at another law school. But what do you really know about the law schools that interest you?

Now–as in, over the summer, while you have time–is a great time to start getting to know law schools . Here are three easy ways.

  • Blogs. From Yale’s blog to Northwestern’s to Michigan’s, many law schools have interesting and informative blogs written by their admission staff. Here is where you can find out what the school is really like. What does the dean of admissions hate reading about in personal statements? What is the school’s recruitment schedule for the semester? Be the first to know about events and heed their suggestions–some not very subtle–about how your application can appeal to this school. You can also follow the blogs by signing up for email updates or adding them to your Feedly stream.
  • Twitter. Likewise, most law schools host Twitter accounts, like Illinois, DePaul, and Chicago-Kent. Although these are more often used to tweet about articles written by faculty or events that happening right now, you can learn a lot about a school from its Twitter feed. Add your schools of interest to your feed and take a look at them once a week. Maybe even read those articles about what the faculty are doing. During the admission cycle many deans will use Twitter to make admissions announcements, so keep following them for updates.
  • Visits. Yep, good old fashioned face to face visits are a great way to get to know an admissions dean and make a good impression. The admissions deans I know are amazingly gifted at remembering people with whom they have spoken, for good or for ill. Dress professionally, give a firm handshake, and come prepared with 2-3 talking points about why you are interested in the school along with 2-3 good questions that go beyond the website. Deans will remember.

Great Summer Event for Law School Applicants

All Illini are invited to attend the Law Admission Workshop Series. These panel discussions hosted by deans of several law schools (listed below) provide opportunities to learn about the application process as well as specifics about the schools. Plus, it’s a great way to make a face-to-face impression with the people who will be reading your law school applications! The Chicago event will be held July 14th from 6-9 pm and other events will be held in DC, New York, LA, and Atlanta.

Participating Law Schools:
University of California, Berkeley
University of Chicago
University of Michigan
New York University
Northwestern University
University of Pennsylvania
University of Virginia

For more details and to register, visit http://www.lawadmissionsworkshopseries.com

After the LSAT: What to do now

You did it! The LSAT is over! Watch a few hours of Netflix. Get a good night’s sleep. Then, get back to the application!

Right about now, most people want to take the next few weeks off before thinking about their applications. Smart applicants will really maximize the remainder of the summer 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 into the rest of your applications.

Planning to retake the Oct LSAT? If so, don’t take too much time off. It is VERY COMMON for retakers to put off their LSAT study until September, pick up their books again, and realize that they’ve lost a lot of ground. If you’re going to retake, make it worth your while by maximizing this time and continuing your commitment to improve your score. By the way, registration is already open for the October LSAT. It is smart to register early to get your preferred test site.

Consider summer law school visits. When do you plan to visit your top choice law schools? Sometimes summer law school visits are easier for students–you may be near the school for the summer, you could be studying abroad during the fall semester, or maybe you know that your fall will be dominated by October LSAT studying and you won’t have much time for visits. Summer law school visits are a good alternative. Granted, most law schools have fewer students around in the summertime, but if now if you have the time now, go ahead and schedule those prospective student visits. Summer visits can also have the advantage of a smaller visitor-to-admissions-staff ratio, allowing for more direct contact with the people who will actually be reading your applications.

Get letters of recommendation. Hopefully, you’ve already got your letter writers lined up. If not, what are you waiting for? You should expect at least 6-8 weeks for your recommender to write the letter, submit it, and for the LSAC to process it. Summer is a GREAT time to approach your letter writers because many people in academia have a lighter schedule than during the academic year. It is highly suggested that students do not wait until September-October to ask for academic letters of rec–this is often the absolute busiest time for professors and can lead to significant delays.

Draft your 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. We also have some tips and suggestions for the personal statement on our website and a helpful handout on our Compass page. We will also continue to host our Personal Statement Workshops this fall, as we do every semester. 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 at least a month 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.)

Order your 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.

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 are scholarships 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.

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

LSAT Update

We have lots of LSAT news to share today! First up are some reminders for Test Day for those of you taking the LSAT next week. Then we’ll include an update about registration for those of you planning for the October LSAT.

For June LSAT Takers
You’ve been prepping and you’re ready. As you enter the final week of prep, be sure to review the LSAC’s Day of the Test overview here. You may need to prep a few test-day items. Some highlights:

  • Bring valid government ID along with 3-4 No. 2 pencils (not mechanical pencils).
  • You will also need to obtain a passport-style photo for your admission ticket.
  • Remember to bring a snack in a ziploc bag! It’s a long test. You’ll need it.
  • No cell phones–this has been a problem at some test sites! DO NOT BRING YOUR CELL PHONE.
  • Digital watches are not allowed–only analog watches can be used.
  • No purses, backpacks, or earplugs are allowed.

For October LSAT Takers
Registration is now open for the October LSAT and closes August 28. Early registration is recommended so that you can get a seat at your preferred test site. To see future test dates or to register, visit LSAT Dates and Deadlines.

Good luck on your LSAT prepping!




Questions Regarding Internships/Externships and Clinics

Students entering their 1L year will hear the terms internship, externship, and clinic at some point.  However, not every new student will know what each term means.  Additionally, some of the terms may have slightly different meanings at different schools.  So, it is a good idea to understand what your prospective schools offer before you begin the application process.

In almost every law school, a clinic is a supervised class in which students work on real-world cases.  The clients are usually low-income individuals and the work is done pro bono.  Typically, schools offer clinics in various practice areas and the clinics are reserved for upper level students who qualify for a temporary law license.

Similarly, every school offers its students resources to take part in either internships or externships.  However, the difference between internships and externships is not always clear.  The definitions may be interchangeable at some schools.  Alternatively, some schools may say that internships are paid positions that receive no credit and externships are for-credit only, or vice versa.

Here are some relevant questions to ask about Internships/Externships and Clinics before you begin the application process:

  • Are there differences between externships and internships at this school? If so, what are those differences?
  • Will I receive academic credit for completing an internship/externship? If so, how many credits can I receive from such sources?
  • What resources are available to me so that I can secure an internship/externship?
  • Do you offer clinics? If so, in what practice areas?
  • Is a temporary law license necessary to participate in a clinic?
  • Does the internship/externship or clinic meet any graduation requirements?

The above questions may be answered by visiting a school’s website.  Alternatively, you can email a school directly to inquire about its offerings or do so at an on-campus visit.