A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Northeast Association of Pre-Law Advisors 2017 Conference. The event was a huge success! Pittsburgh provided fantastic summer weather and the planning committee brought amazing content and activities for over 180 pre law advisors and law school admissions professionals. It was a great way to reconnect with my law school friends and colleagues from my admissions days. The icing on the cake, however, was the opportunity to present on a topic that has always been near and dear to my heart with two of my most favorite colleagues in the industry.
George Justice from Touro Law Center and Wendy Vonnegut from Methodist University joined me to talk about creative ways to introduce the possibility of law school to diverse and underrepresented populations. Our session came on the heels of LSAC’s report showing only 50% of African-American applicants were admitted to law school last year. Needless to say, the topic sparked some healthy conversation among admission professionals and pre-law advisors alike.
But the overarching themes of the day were: PIPELINES and PARTNERSHIPS. Here are the top three ideas that emerged from those conversations.
It’s no secret that the key to successful diversity recruitment is the creation of pipeline programs and partnerships. Many students from underrepresented and low socio-economic backgrounds face a variety of barriers to entry and inclusion such as the pressure to stay close to home to take care of family members or to pursue a job right after college to earn money instead of pursuing graduate/professional school.
It is extremely important to reach these students early in their college career and introduce them to graduate/professional school opportunities. With most law schools already running on a very lean admissions team, it is impossible to imagine developing and implementing yet another program that won’t have immediate ROI.
Instead of starting from scratch, take a look at your home institution and see if there are existing programs that would make great partners.
The Kline School of Law at Drexel University partners with their own undergraduate Liberty Scholars, to get this young and promising group of students thinking about education options beyond undergrad. Information sessions with law school admissions professionals and meet-ups with their pre-law advisor are scheduled throughout their academic career at Drexel. The cherry on top: if they up being admitted to Kline after graduation, they are eligible for a hefty scholarship.
Admissions professionals always have their “counseling” hat within reach and one of the biggest pieces of advice offered is that the LSAT is a test that requires preparation. But many students are unable to foot the cost of these test prep courses that will help hone their skills, so they do not even begin to reach out. However, many of these test prep partners offer deep discounts for students in need but they are not all the same so it is imperative to help students find these programs. And what could be better than bringing these test prep programs to your campus!
Touro Law School partners with The Focus Approach and offers their law school as a location for classes. An added incentive: those who successfully complete the course and eventually matriculate at Touro are reimbursed the cost of the course in the form of scholarship.
Mike Vitlip, pre-law advisor at Drexel University, finds interesting ways to partner with test prep vendors. Instead of waiting for them to come to him, he sends out an RFP to local test-prep agencies inviting them to put in a bid to see who puts together the most comprehensive (and cost-effective) on-campus program for his students. You’ll be surprised how many of these agencies are willing and able to partner with you to help your students.
The best thing about being a pre-law advisor (next to helping students realize their dreams, of course) is the friendships you build with many different law schools. Why not utilize those friendships to bring everyone together for a Diversity Pre-Law Day? You provide the students and the law schools bring their expertise along with funding from LSAC grants.
Wendy Vonnegut, Methodist’s pre-law advisor, wanted to give her students (and others in the North Carolina area) who couldn’t make it to LSAC’s Atlanta forum an opportunity to engage with law school representatives in their neighborhood. She reached out to a dear friend—the Dean of Admissions at a local law school—who in turn reached out to his fellow admission deans and soon a program was being planned with little to no start-up costs.
The law school provided the venue, the admissions deans created the sessions and the LSAC grant provided the funding for food and transportation. All Wendy had to do was reach out to her student and pre-law advisor network. Viola! The North Carolina Diversity Law Day was created and turned into a huge success. Today, law schools take turns hosting the event and more and more NC students are introduced to law school as an option.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you leverage strategic partnerships to facilitate opportunities for students. Diversity and inclusion in education is one of my greatest passions and I love seeing how my law school colleagues are making this a priority for their recruitment.
What is your institution doing to move the needle on this topic? Contact me or leave comments below to continue the discussion.