Every year, representatives of over 170 law schools travel the country to
meet potential applicants. Along with their visits to individual colleges,
they attend conferences in hotels in eight major cities. (In 2009 Miami was added as a ninth city, and Toronto has been added in 2011, but these additions may not be permanent.) These conferences,
known as Law Forums, are organized and subsidized by Law Services, unlike
smaller recruiting events at individual colleges. You can see a complete list of scheduled cities and dates here. Smaller school-sponsored events are linked on the same page.
Every year thousands of hopeful prelaw students flock to these Forums to
gather information, as do I. But my role at a Forum is different from that of most applicants. I'm hoping to interest an admissions officer in each of my clients. I also try to get a feel for the prevailing mood
of the admissions officers. Their casual comments are often as important
as the hard numbers in predicting how admissions will run at their school. When I return from each Forum, I post notes for you in my Recent News column.
Of course, you'll use Law Forums for a different purpose than I do. If you are able to travel to a Forum City, you should consider attending twice. The first time, you should watch the general information videos -- whether law school is right for you, how to finance your education, the climate for various minorities. The second time, you can wander the main room and talk to admissions officers. There are often long lines, so you should anticipate talking to no more then 30 people in a six-hour day.
How can you maximize your benefit at a Law Forum?
Getting good information, as you'll learn in Evidence class, isn't easy. It is your job to:
interview the right people
ask the right questions
record their answers for future reference
hear and understand what they say
Ask The Right People
Decide in advance whom you want to interview. Don't waste your time (or the admissions officer's) with schools to which you know you'll apply regardless. Resist the urge to talk to the staff at schools which you will certainly not attend, no matter how alluring the chance to say next week, "I was talking to Dean Schwartz from UCLA the other day..." Concentrate on finding ten to fifteen schools where you have genuine questions about whether you're interested in the school or competitive with their applicant pool.
Ask The Right Questions
If you are looking for the answer to a specific question, ask it first. The admissions officer may have a mental time limit (consciously or not) for each person. If you spend your first few minutes asking less important questions, you may lose the person’s attention before you get to the important stuff. In any event, don’t expect to ask more than 3 questions; there may be people in line behind you, after all.
Word the inquiry so it gives the school’s representative the information they need to answer accurately. For instance, “I have a six-month-old baby; is day care for very young children available on campus?” will more likely evoke an accurate response. If you just ask about day care, you may get an answer applicable to four-year-olds rather than infants.
If you don't actually need advice, formulate a question or two that will help you evaluate the admissions staff. ("What is your law school's attitude toward bringing my three year old to class in an emergency?" or, "How would you characterize the ideal student at your law school?")
Try to ask the same question of each person, so you can evaluate the responses fairly and meaningfully.
Record Their Answers
Write down the answers you receive and your impression of the person who answered it. Often the answer won't be as important as your feelings about the person with whom you spoke. Record the name and title of the person with whom you spoke.You may find this information helpful if follow-up is necessary. ("I spoke to Ms. Foss at the Forum in Atlanta, and she told me to call you to get this information.")
|Don't be afraid to make judgments;
that's why you attended the Forum in the first place.
Hear and Understand What They Say
- Answers to questions about your own chances of admission should be evaluated carefully. You will rarely if ever get a direct answer, and an encouraging, "Apply! Numbers aren't the whole game, you know!" can be meaningful or irrelevant. An alumni recruiter or financial aid officer is less likely to know the answers to your questions than is an admissions officer.
- Answers indicating that your LSAT or gpa is low usually mean that unless you come up with more in your application than the admissions officer sees now, you are likely to be rejected.
- Answers to questions about your special needs should also be evaluated carefully for attitude as well as content.
- If the person you speak to in the law school merely sends you to a university office, you might interpret this as meaning that you will get little support from law school staff.
- If the admissions officer begins by saying, "Well, we've never actually had a blind student before, but I imagine we could...," you know that you will be the trail-blazer, with all the inconvenience and frustration that implies.
- If the staff is knowledgeable and forthcoming with information, you will find your greatest chance of being comfortably integrated into the student body.
Hear with Your Ears, not With Your Heart!
- "That's going to be a real stretch" does not mean "I have a chance!"
- "Have you considered retaking the LSAT?" or "How did you prepare for the LSAT?" or "How many times have you taken the LSAT?" all mean "Your LSAT is too low."
- "I understand, but you can always apply next year as a transfer if you do well in your first year" means "No."
- "Let me tell you about our new [insert anything here]" means "we want your application," but it may not mean "you're likely to be admitted." It may just mean "We need more applications."