First, let me introduce other URM authorities on TLS:
Vanwinkle – Hispanic HLS grad!!! and dear friend. He transferred from UVA to HLS and is extremely knowledge about 0L and Transfer Admissions.
Nightrunner – Native American Superstar <3
Bk187 – Our newest mod authority! This guy truly knows his stuff.
Second, I am only presenting facts and my personal experiences after witnessing three cycles of URM admissions. People are free to express their individual opinions ITT but I will hesitate to entertain any debates that are better accommodated in the lounge. Let’s keep this thread positive and a great informational resource for upcoming applicants and 1Ls.
Finally, I will edit the OP regularly for updates and to include information I may have initially omitted.
So let’s get started!
1. URM Categories and Boosts
2. LSAT Score
4. Personal and Diversity Statements
5. Admissions Process: What to Expect
6. Diversity Programs: SEO, CLEO etc.
7. 1L (Grades, Affinity Groups, Networking, 1L Summer, Transfer Admissions)
8. OCI as a URM
9. 2L Summer
URM Categories and Boosts
African American/black, Native American, Puerto Rican, and Mexican American are traditionally considered URM categories for LS admissions. The extent of “boosts” received can hardly be quantified but I would say that African Americans and Native Americans tend to get the highest boosts, and in my personal opinion, African American males get the highest of them all. Some non-URM Hispanics have experienced a slight admissions boost, but it is rather inconsistent and thus harder to predict.
One question that comes up again and again is, “Am I a URM if I’m white but was born and raised in Africa? Does that qualify me for URM status?” Here is your answer:
Dept. of Education defines African-Americans as:
A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa."
LSAC uses the DOE definition. Not that you can't get a bump some other way, but you're not going to get a URM bump by being classified as African-American.
bk187 wrote:The DoE definition is correct. The reason that it is like this is that at some point in American history, Americans started to use a term that related strictly to geography (African-American) as a substitute for race. It is a euphemism for black that happens to use a geographical term so the definition stems from the term it replaces, not from the literal meaning of the words that constitute the euphemism. So you'll hear Americans sometimes call black people from other countries "African-Americans" because the term is wholly synonymous with black to them even though black people from other countries aren't actually American.
Another question, that comes up repeatedly is, “I’ve never identified as a [insert URM category], but I just found out that my grandparents on my dad’s side are URM. Can I identify as a URM for admissions purposes?”
Opinion will vary on the ethical nature of this question, but as long as you actually are URM, whether full blooded or one-drop (remember the URM boost does not get reduced by your proportion of URM genes), identifying as a URM now is fine. People may give you the side eye and say you’re gaming the system, but the fact remains you can identify as a URM if you are ACTUALLY a URM, regardless of whether you identified previously.
And just to reiterate, if you are mixed race, identify as both (or more) races! You do not have to pick and choose! A mixed race person who has only 1/2, 1/4, 1/8? (1/16 is probably pushing it lol) of URM blood in them will be considered the same as a full-blooded URM. The boost is not reduced proportional to your overall URMness.
It is well documented that minorities tend to underperform on standardized tests and the LSAT is no different. Though the URM boost compensates for such underperformance each applicant should confront the LSAT as if s/he wants a 180. As a general matter, if a URM has a reasonable GPA i.e. 3.0+, a 160 (at least) should give her/him a good shot at the T14. Again, this is just a generality; I have seen one AA male gain admission to T6 with 157/3.4 stats. To know the minimum LSAT score you need for T14 admission, you would also need to take your GPA into account.
TLS is an amazing resource for LSAT preparation so I don’t have to go into detail. But I will share some tips that I found helpful when I studied for the LSAT. I took the LSAT THREE times; it was terrible. Standardized testing was never my thing. But in the end, my results were 166/166/172. Here are some of my personal thoughts on retaking that I have distributed via PM in the past:
You should drill ONLY your weakest section during your first week of prep. I know it seems like a lot...but just so you rectify your mistakes and focus on your weakest points. Do like 2 timed sections a day and then go over all your answers before you check the answer key. Even if you are sure you got one question correct, go over it. There is never a time when one is not prone to silly mistakes. I used to miss LR questions within the first 10 of a section, which of course are the easiest. It’s about maintaining focus and not falling for any good-looking incorrect answer choices.
Once you feel like you are stronger on your weakest section, then follow the same routine for a week with another section, but this time, do at least 10 of your weakest questions to make sure you don't forget what you learned in the first week. Of course, during this whole time, I recommend that you read the first page of a national newspaper or something every day in order to prepare your mind for RC and just stimulus reading in general. I found the RC section in "Master the LSAT" really helpful. I cannot speak on the PR and Kaplan books, but if you feel you need supplements to the Powerscore Bibles, then go for it!
You should also highlight the really important parts of the LR and LG Bibles...and maybe even make your own review sheet for each question type by typing out those key ideas and concepts. Go over this review sheet daily and drill them until you are bored with what you are reading. Then you'll know you have it down, at least cognitively. For each game in the LG Bible, definitely give yourself only 8:45 mins for each game. You have to be strict with time, so that when you take the test you'll know what to expect. A lot of the time, many people, and admittedly, I even struggle with keeping strict time constraints and it can only hurt you on test day. It may seem difficult, but it will all be worth it when you get your score!!
When it comes time for prep tests, like I said, strict timing. I think you should start taking full prep tests a month/ 3 weeks before the test, maximum 3 or 4 a week. In my opinion, that's pushing it...anything more will burn you out. Don't do it!! And make sure you include a 5th section in one of the first 3 sections and a 15 minute break, just like the real test.
Another little thing that I like to do before each prep test, is to fill out the administrative sheet (you know the one with the certification statement and your personal details) just to further replicate the feeling of test day. You don't want test day to feel any different from any prep test you have taken in the past, as this is where the nerves and anxiety like to build up and ultimately ruin your performance. Make sure you evenly use a LG, LR and RC section for your 5th section, and rotate the placement of this experimental i.e. 1st, 2nd or 3rd. What I think stopped me from getting over a 170 the second time was the fact that I got 3 LR sections in a row and I wasn't expecting it. Though I had practiced several times with such an order, I just let the anxiety frustrate me and of course, it negatively affected my score. Basically, ensure you prepare yourself for any surprises.
Finally, please find some kind of recreational activity to do while you are studying. When I first studied, I was so engrossed in work that I prevented myself from enjoying any leisure time and it was not until I started balancing work with play that I saw progress. I know you want to do well, but please, please make sure you go for a run, or go out to the movies or just hang out with a loved one and watch a comedy or something EVERY DAY!! It’s important...your brain needs time to rest. Just something that takes your mind off of the studying. It’s simply not healthy to do nothing but study...so just keep that in mind. Don't study for more than 3 or 4 hours a day, but if you feel you need more, you do what you think is best for you. No one knows your limits but you.
Again, just like any other candidate you need to maximize your GPA. Just so you know, out of the Holy Trinity – Harvard is more forgiving of a lower GPA for URMs than Yale and Stanford. If your GPA is below a 3.4, you could have a 175+ LSAT score and you still won’t get Yale. I personally know an AA male who had a 3.37/177 and didn’t get Yale. It’s a shame he had to settle for Harvard lol. I’ve witnessed a soft URM floor for Harvard, however, and it sits at a 3.2. I have two great friends at HLS, both AA males, 170/174, 3.2 and 172/3.2. During my time on TLS, the lowest admitted HLS GPA was a 3.2.
Also, please try to your best to get your GPA over the 3.0 hump. Sub 3.0 candidates really have limited choice of T14 schools. If however you know there is no way your GPA will be 3.0+ when your cycle starts, you should probably focus on schools on Northwestern, and possibly UVA and Georgetown. I’ve seen a 2.9/160 AA female gain admission into Northwestern.
Finally, some of us may have had a tough semester or a tough class that went awry for personal reasons. I experienced this in my second semester of freshman year, when I earned a 2.7. Even though I rebounded to much higher grades the subsequent semesters, that one semester was a black mark on my transcript. Now when you have legitimate personal reasons for a low GPA in one class/semester (i.e. death in family, serious illness etc.) you should definitely attempt a retroactive withdrawal, meaning you can withdraw from your classes even after they're already completed. Yes, you will lose the credits, but your GPA should shoot right up! When I did it, the highest my GPA could even get was a 3.73. Though that's solid, it was not enough for me. I shared my story with the registrar by formally petitioning them for a retroactive withdrawal. Thank God, it worked; I graduated with a 3.91. Bad things happen and you should do all you can to ameliorate the consequences. If you think such circumstances pertain to you, definitely give it a try. You have nothing to lose but much to gain.
Focus on the LSAT, but not to the extent that it harms your GPA. Both numbers are incredibly important.
Personal and Diversity Statements
TLS offers a great Personal Statement forum and Ken, the founder of TLS, offers a great thread for Diversity Statements. Vanwinkle and I didn’t include diversity statements in either of our applications. However, we were able to convey a complete picture in our personal statements. Not having a diversity statement will certainly not harm you, but if you are indecisive about whether to include one in your application, may I suggest that you do. A well-written diversity statement can only enhance your application.
Also, there is no pressure to talk about race in either your personal or diversity statement. I didn’t mention my race at all, and many others do not. If you feel like your racial experiences would form a great narrative, then definitely feel free to include it! But again, any discussion in your application is hardly considered a prerequisite for URM admissions purposes.
For re-applicants, whether or not to redraft your PS is dependent on your circumstances. If you have a shiny new LSAT or GPA, then redrafting your PS/DS is probably not necessary; just a few tweaks would be adequate. To be honest, adcomms probably did not reject you for your PS/DS - it was your LSAT/GPA. However, if you are reapplying with the same numbers, then you have more incentive to enhance/change your softs i.e. PS/DS, resume, LORs (if possible) etc. You need to offer the adcomms some reason to accept you when they've already rejected you.
Finally, over my years on TLS I have edited quite a few statements and I am more than happy to continue to do so. Do not hesitate to PM me your statement for critique. Of course, your personal work will be kept confidential.
Admissions Process: What to Expect
ALWAYS, ALWAYS apply as early as you possibly can! Like, as you're reading this, your apps should damn near be done URM admissions differ in timing in that acceptances appear to come in rounds at times, especially at schools like HLS, where there are multiple rounds to the admissions process (i.e. KB1 – phone call interview and KB2 – admission). Also, I’ve seen URMs wait longer than non-URM candidates for eventual admission. A lot of URMs are below median for either their LSAT or GPA and it is not unreasonable to think that adcomms want to cement their medians and 75%iles before accepting candidates with lesser numbers. So please, be patient! I know it can be torture but just remember a slow yes is always better than a fast no.
Further, do not let limited funds stop you from applying to schools. Always, ALWAYS email the admissions committee describing your interest in the school, your diverse background and your LSAT/GPA combo and humbly ask for a fee waiver. You will be surprised by how easy it is to get one. Schools have every incentive to increase their applicant pool even if you're not a competitive applicant because schools care about selectivity. And at the very least, you have nothing to lose but the $21 LSAC report fee, but you could earn admission to a wonderful school that you once thought you could not afford to apply to....
Early Decision Applications
I am usually loath to recommend early decision for any URM candidate simply because URM cycles are notoriously unpredictable. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a URM get rejected/WLed by a lower-ranked school only to be admitted at a higher-ranked school. Unless you have low numbers or there is absolutely no way you can attend any other school, do not ED anywhere; you will more than likely deny yourself a chance to attend a "better" school and preclude any chances of negotiating merit aid using other acceptance offers. Please ask for advice in re ED because the foregoing is not a universal rule; there are always exceptions. But this is certainly dependent on personal circumstances.
Merit scholarships for both URM and non-URM candidates can be a determinative factor in the admissions process. Given the state of the economy and the outrageous amount of debt a lot of us already owe from undergrad, these financial rides can be crazy appealing. I can't really give general advice on this matter because advice to any applicant would wholly depend on their overall options and their personal limitations and objectives. Not everyone cares about attending HYSCCN. Some people just want to graduate without any debt. Some people can't move across the nation to attend an elite school when uprooting their family could cause problems. Please feel free to PM or post ITT to receive opinions on your circumstances. Anyway, Fresh, a great applicant from a recent cycle who I believe is now at YLS, made this thread. It's not perfect - partly because the type of URM receiving these scholarships is not defined - but it should give you some idea about potential merit-based awards.
0L Diversity Programs
Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Career Program.
Please see the website and the megathread.
This is a wonderful opportunity that I wish I had jumped on. It’s essentially a program that recruits 0Ls during the admissions cycle, interviews each applicant, awaits your final school acceptance, and then if they want you, will place you in a great, and I mean GREAT firm! I know people who worked at Jones Day, S&C, Fried Frank, Weil, etc. Not only will you get paid approx. $2000/month (fact-check pls?), but if you do a great job you will receive an offer to return for your 1L summer! That’s a 1L summer job secure before you even start 1L and puts you in an awesome position for 2L OCI if you want to explore other options. Finally, and most importantly, you’ll be able to use all your money earned from three summers to pay down your tuition debt (if you have any!) DO. IT. Apply!!! I really, really wish I had! Would have made my life much easier during 1L knowing I already had a firm job
Given my limited experience with SEO, I asked some veterans to share their thoughts on the process. Please see below <3
SEO Veteran #1 wrote: Introduction: Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (“SEO”) is an organization that works to prepare minority and diverse students for law school. The program places you with a partner firm for the summer before you enter law school. SEO partners with some of the top firms in the entire country. They have program locations in New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, and I think Texas as well. Everyone does orientation in New York, however, as well as a two week SEO institute towards the end of the summer which aims to specifically prepare you for law school success.
Applying: You apply the same time you are applying for law schools. The earlier the better, because admission is rolling. I think you need many of the same materials as you do for applying to law school, and, if you get to the interview stage, a letter of recommendation. SEO, because they place their interns at some of the top firms in the legal profession, care a lot about what school you are going to. The vast majority of interns come from T14 schools, with a handful of students from good T1 schools (Vanderbilt, University of Houston, etc.). That’s not to say you shouldn’t apply if you aren’t attending a T14, but you should manage your expectations.
Interview: The interview is a bit different than a standard interview. It’s about a half-hour if I’m recalling correctly, with the first half pretty standard, asking you normal questions. They’ll probably ask you why you want to go to law school, why you picked the law school you picked (if you’ve committed to a school already), or what schools you are considering (if you’re still uncommitted), and questions about your resume. They like to see someone who is interesting in doing biglaw, corporate work but still cares a lot about giving back to their community and philanthropy. I tried to carry that theme in my interview. It’s also important to read up about current news and legal stories, and especially about their partner firms (I believe a list is available on their website). They asked me what I knew about their partner firms, and I was able to give some specifics in my answer, which I think came off great. The second half you’re asked to read a passage and answer questions. My passage was a news article about the BP oil spill in the gulf. Then they quiz you on the passage and push you on your answers. I think the most important thing here is to stay calm, they are looking to see how you react to pressure or stress. I’ve also heard of interviews that are much more “stress” interview than that, were they are pushing you much harder. They also want to see your reasoning. For example, I got asked a question, was the actions in the article a criminal or civil offense. I don’t think this was answered in the article, but I had to pick an answer and then justify it. I’m pretty sure my answer was completely wrong, but my reasoning made sense, so that’s all that matters. Make sure to wear a suit and tie and dress conservatively and professionally (consider bringing a padfolio with notes and extra copies of resume and transcript).
Depending on who your initial interview was with, you might have to do a follow up Skype interview. This is pretty similar to the original interview (minus the reading the article and answering questions). They want to see if you’ve picked a school if you were previously uncommitted. One important thing to note is they will not officially accept you until you have sent in a deposit to a school (even if you later switch schools). They do this because they don’t want to have someone in the program who isn’t going to law school immediately.
Post-Acceptance: Before the summer starts, you have to complete some training online. It is mostly just for context, and is kind of helpful, although I think I forgot everything. You learn about finances, what a merger is, what an acquisition is, etc. It’s basically corporate business 101. It takes a few hours, but isn’t that long. Get started on finding housing as well, especially if you are in NYC, housing is expensive and limited.
The Summer Program: I summered at a V20 firm in NYC. Depending on your state date (differs by every firm), you may spend a week or two at your firm before heading to SEO orientation. For others, SEO orientation begins their summer. The SEO orientation really isn’t anything substantive. You learn about the class gift (which SEO rather strongly encourages you to contribute to), and the SEO program in general. A lot of it is with the SEO interns in other areas, such as banking, or public interest. You also learn about SEO ways, which are pretty serious overall. They have a dress code and ways of conducting yourself as an intern that they take very seriously (this includes dressing SEO appropriate, which is basically business formal).
At my firm, I was treated basically as if I was a summer associate. I was invited to all the summer events, was issued a Blackberry, and shared an office with summers. The work I did was pretty interesting and substantive, and was not just paralegal work (although there was some of that too). They didn’t really work me too hard and treated me really well, taking me out to lunch and dinner quite a bit. Every Monday and Tuesday there is a reception (at least in New York, other cities have them much less frequently). There are a lot of them and they get pretty old pretty fast, but you have to attend. Basically the format is for an hour or so there will be a panel of lawyers or law firm recruiters who will discuss a certain topic – say, the business of a law firm or how to succeed as a junior associate. You are then expected to ask questions for a while (SEO interns are expected to have at least one question prepared, although in practice it isn’t really necessary because there isn’t enough time for tons of questions but some need be asked). Then there will be an hour or more of mingling and finger food and drinks. You’re expected to mingle and talk with the attorneys there, and they keep reminding you to do so.
Towards the end of the summer, in July, there is a 2 week SEO institute. This is basically like a rough law school bootcamp. I think you have about one mock class a day with a real law professor, you have to read cases for, and they might cold call. It’s not so much helpful in getting you ahead or anything, but it’s mildly useful in knowing what to expect, because it’s basically like 1 day in law school. You also spend two or three days with the founder of LEEWS, Wentworth Miller, going over and practicing his system for taking law school exams. At the end of every class you take a practice exam, and you get grades back later.
Some SEO firms give offers for the SEO summers to return for their 1L summer at the end of their SEO summer. Mine did not, but I ended up getting a job there anyways once I was able to produce sufficient first semester grades. I think having known the people was a big leg up in the 1L job hunt (although my grades were good enough I can’t say I wouldn’t have just gotten the job regardless), and I think it did make it easier to get a position to return. Having this firm on my resume was also big during OCI, it definitely looked good. I think it kind of validates you. If this top firm thinks you’re a good employee, then you must be. Every single interview asked about it, usually both my SEO summer and my 1L summer.
Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO)
Please see the website and thread.
This opportunity differs from SEO in that it's a pre-law prep program rather than an immediate job opportunity. I'm very ambivalent about pre-law programs, especially ones that come with a hefty price ($2000 for six weeks). I'm not saying this program is without merit, but I truly feel TLS and similar resources are more than adequate to hit the ground running in 1L. Here are some opinions voiced in the thread:
bk187 wrote:hernanmi wrote:BK, What do you think is the primary benefit of CLEO (if any at all)? I'm curious to know your opinion of the program.
Doing well in law school isn't rocket science so I can't see how CLEO's summer thing (which looks similar to Law Preview and Law Preview is universally reviled on TLS) could be of any value for doing well. In fact it just seems like a great way to burn yourself out further since you're spending 6 weeks on school and do more poorly than you might otherwise.
If there's any benefit to it it wouldn't relate to law school performance but more to anything else it gives. I see it says CLEO scholars are possibly eligible for grants. That might be useful, but I have no idea what ones chances of getting $ out of it are.
bk187 wrote:lady law wrote:[redacted] I think that the program could be useful in terms of improving one's legal writing skills and providing exposure to the type and amount of work that is typical of law school. I went to one of the top ivy league schools for undergrad where everyone was obviously intelligent and (arguably) hard working...and unfortunately graded on a ridiculous curve
From my own experiences, I can attest to the fact that learning how to write in a particular way is invaluable in terms of earning top grades. Also, let's not forget that at CLEO, we would have our writing critiqued by law school professors...I'm sure that can't hurt.
Legal writing skills aren't going to significantly help with your doctrinal classes, imo. And legal writing class grades are often arbitrary, especially when the briefs that students turn in are all quite similar.
More importantly though, it doesn't take 6 weeks and $2000 to learn this sort of thing. Spend some time reading Getting to Maybe or, if you really want to be hardcore about it, try the LEEWS system. Being critiqued by law professors isn't really helpful unless you have that specific law professor. Your exams won't be written for a generic law prof, they will be written for your law prof (the one you spent all semester with trying to learn his/her specific nuances). Law school also isn't some radically different type or amount of work. You spend all week reading boring ass cases and taking notes. Nothing radical there. The workload isn't that high either (easier than a fulltime job for the most part, imo).
And I think that it's just a waste. It's a waste of money, it's a waste of time, and the biggest risk is that you'll be burned out in December when you take finals since you'll have been doing the same boring monotonous work that everyone else has been but for an additional 6 weeks.
TooSchool4Cool wrote:Just my 2 cents, but I actually attended the CLEO AIE program last summer (prior to be deciding to sit out and reapply this cycle- great decision btw!), and it was excellent. Yes, a lot of concepts are basic, but the learning curve in law school is very steep, and I felt like the skills that I took away even from that one weekend would have benefitted me significantly had I started law school this past August.
Based on that experience, I felt like the 6-week institute could only go up from there. I have been out of undergrad for a few years, and really want to make sure that I am as prepared as I can be before commencing my 1L year. With that said, however, I too applied for the low income rate, but was accepted with the $2,000 price tag. That is seriously making me look at the cost:benefit.
TooSchool4Cool wrote:Okay, so after reading the 2011 and 2010 CLEO threads, in addition to my own CLEO experience, I feel like I may go ahead and scrape up the money to pay for the program. One person about a week into the program had this to say when asked how the program was going:
“Intense! Most people got about 4-5 hours of sleep last night because of the work load we were given. I know one guy who was up all night long preparing for today's classes.
This program is tip-top and they are committed to helping you succeed. I am REALLY impressed by their genuine desire to help you out and get you off on the right foot in law school. I cannot say enough nice things about the faculty and staff here at Drake University. What the location lacks in desirability (most people were not thrilled to be in Iowa), it is more than made up by the instructors and support staff.”
Another said this:
“sceva31st is right. We got our booties kicked these first few days. You really hit the ground running right off. The materials were large (lots of books, big books, etc.) so a comfortable backpack would be ideal…
The profs are really excited to be teaching. They elected to do this program so they're obviously pretty committed. They're very helpful and accessible. Also, the deans are really friendly and accessible too.
It has been a lot of reading, but once we start school in the fall we'll be miles ahead of our peers. We'll know how to write memos, letters, etc., how to outline for ourselves, how to brief a case, and how to survive when the work and reading assignments keep coming.”
That was pretty much the confirmation that I was looking for. Hope this information may help others with their decision!
(link to 2011 thread http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/v ... &start=275 )
I'm not terribly familiar with CLEO, so I apologize for the bits and pieces. Obviously this program has its upside; if you're very worried about 1L and you feel like you would learn better in a classroom environment AND you have the money and time to spare, then definitely consider it. I feel like first-generation graduate students may benefit from such a program. But, again, you can really, really prepare yourself just by reading a free online resource like TLS. I think at the end of the day, it's a personal decision. But I never really thought it was the best decision for me.
Let me be clear. Yes you have a boost for admissions purposes but when it comes to 1L, you absolutely have to perform. Though firms and other legal institutions brag about diversity, they care about your grades just as much as they do for non-URM candidates. Don't be fooled into thinking that just because you received a boost during the admissions process, you will continue to receive a similar boost throughout your time in law school. Though URMs find employment opportunities through diversity fairs, that is the extent of any perceivable boost; you are still evaluated the same way as your non-URM counterparts. However, I will say this. Employers are more likely to pull below median students from higher-ranked schools than lower-ranked ones. So if you're below median at HYSCCN, you are more likely to find a job - if you bid appropriately and interview effectively (to be discussed below) - than if you're below median at a T14-20 school. The "better" the school, the larger the wiggle room for grades. Still, like the LSAT, you should aim for the top. 1L is not the time for complacency for ANY law student, regardless of your race. Some of my URM friends at HLS struck out during EIP. Of course, this could be due to a host of factors aside from grades, but those with low grades have a tough time finding a job. Period.
TLS provides amazing guides to help you conquer 1L. Here are some of my favorites:
TLS Collected Wisdom on Success in Law School
1L Exam Questions and Links
How to Learn to do Well on a Law School Exam
Some wonderful posters on TLS already did the work for me! Going back to my CLEO discussion, these resources will do just as much, if not more, than any $2000 course can imo. Definitely read the 1L forum to tips and advice to succeed in 1L and do not hesitate to ask questions in the Ask a Law Student/Graduate forum.
I can't stress just how instrumental my affinity group was during 1L. Now this part of my advice also pertains to Asian-Americans, a group not traditionally considered URM. Whether you're part of APALSA (Asian Pacific American Law Student Association), La Alianza (Latino Law Student Association), or BLSA (Black Law Student Association), I urge you to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by your respective organizations. Below are some of the ways HBLSA helped me:
1. Academic Advice
Several weeks into my 1L, HBLSA offered an indispensable teaching session to new students. A professor broke down everything we needed to know about how to approach classes, outlines and exams. Reading tips and advice online may be sufficient for some of you but I really appreciated the free, 2 hour crash course. It included how to read/take notes for class, how to make outlines for 3 hour and 8 hour exams, how to properly apply law to facts in an exam, and how to present analysis and public policy in exam questions. I'm fairly certain that because minority students tend to have a harder time excelling in law school, most minority organizations will offer similar programs. I suggest you inquire as to whether your school does; if not, definitely suggest that they do so. After one night, I felt much more comfortable about 1L.
2. Lunch/Dinner with Prestigious Faculty and National Leaders
When people refer to networking, they usually think of recruiters and firm partners. However, networking with professors is just as important especially if you are interested in being a research assistant, teaching assistant, or anticipate a recommendation for a clerkship application. It's quite easy to do; just don't be shy!! Professor Randall Kennedy worked on a new book, "The Persistence of the Color Line" and because I am very interested in law and race relations, I approached him and simply asked to be his research assistant. Because I was not particularly interested in academia, he was hesitant at first, but I was very persistent and he soon gave me several assignments to complete! I learned so much - and extra-curricular education is so important! Sometimes, if you get really comfortable with networking you won't even have to approach professors for work; they'll just give it to you! Professor Charles Ogletree - the ultimate middle man, even mentored President Obama - listed me as his teaching assistant for his course, "Race and Justice - The Wire." He didn't even ask me. Though it was rather presumptuous on his part as I was unable to do it, I was happy to know that he thought highly enough of me to include me in his course that way. Just putting yourself out there is the best way to make lifetime connections with very influential people. Don't hold back! You'll be surprised how receptive professors and other legal professionals are!!
3. Information on Minority Scholarships and Fellowships
Though most scholarships and fellowships for law students target minority students, a lot of us are unaware of them; in my experience, by the time I discovered I could apply for several scholarships and fellowships, the deadline had already passed. Don't make the same mistake I did. HBLSA, and I assume similar organizations, have a Professional Development Committee that gathers all scholarship/program/grant/fellowship information into their database and distributes it to their due-paying members. All you have to do is scroll through the opportunities and apply! We're lucky enough to have a streamlined process, but let me just say these opportunities are outrageously competitive. If you want a big law job for 1L summer and you did not do SEO, your grades better be top 5-20%. Most firms only offer one or two "minority" scholly spots. They will advertise widely, but end up with very few minority candidates in the program. Although I recommend taking full advantage of these opportunities, you should absolutely NOT rely on them! May I suggest venturing outside of the BLSA/APALSA/La Alianza bubble?
4. Job Fairs
Okay, aside from the extremely limited minority scholarships and fellowships available, job fairs are probably the only way URM students receive boosts. However, let me be clear, job fairs hosted by minority organizations are still open to non-URM students and I suggest that all students attend these events. Some people may give you the side-eye but I think increasing face-time with influential recruiters is indispensable, whether you're a URM student or not. Non-URMs please do not hesitate to attend these fairs! No one cares or will think you're trying to game the system by being there! You're just trying to get a job and there is no shame in that! Do NOT self-select out just because you're lacking some melanin.
Before you even think about job fairs, however, make sure your resume is formatted appropriately. One page, Garamond, 11 pt is my default. May I recommend asking the OCS (Office of Career Services) for resume redrafting? They know what the employers want to see and will give your resume back to you looking polished and professional. And some people may think this is unnecessary... but because I knew everyone would print their resume on basic white paper, I got that fancy beige resume paper from Staples and printed my resume on it. It certainly did not hurt me, but it could have helped me. When they went through all the resumes they received that day, at least mine stood out hahah!
In both fall and spring of 1L year, at least one minority organization should offer a job fair to 1L students. Prior to the event, the Professional Development Committee should also request resumes from all members to form a resume book sent to all firms attendees. Once you're there, treat every single conversation with a firm representative like a mini interview. Get fresh and put on your best suit. Your organization should have sent out a list of all the firms that will be there prior to the event. Study the list, highlight the firms you're most interested in and do some preliminary research so you can impress recruiters with intelligent, firm-specific questions. The key to these things, just like any interview, is to make sure you're memorable. It's just harder to do so in an informal and limited time setting like job fairs. No worries, that just means you have to be on your A-game from start to finish. Be charming, and maintain eye contact. Also, do not duck out of the fair early!! If there was a recruiter you really connected with or a firm you really want to connect with, approach their table again and just start a conversation on a non-law related topic. I remember laughing with a recruiter for 20 minutes about the hottest soccer players! It was awesome. During 2L OCI, I met her again and I got a callback/offer from the firm. Let them get to know you as a person, not just as a prospective job candidate. You want to start forming a relationship that makes her/him advocate on your behalf when you're not in the hiring room. Finally, if you wait towards the end, you're more likely to tag along with firm associates who are going out to dinner! And I think we're all up for free food
5. Networking Events with Hiring Partners/Recruiters of Top Firms
Sending emails to prospective employers to get a job is important, but you have to remember that you're not just trying to get a job, you're also trying to cultivate a relationship with these people. Like I just said, your objective is to make sure that someone knows you and likes you enough that when it comes time for the hiring committee to make a final decision, you have someone advocating on your behalf. My best advice: attend events and reach out to those with whom you have common interests or background (perhaps you attended the same undergraduate institution, or have worked at a same/similar job prior to law school) and make them your mentor. Obviously, you don't approach them saying, "Please be my mentor" lol...rather you suggest having coffee at a mutual time, lunch with fellow associates, or most probably, a phone call.
I had three mentors during OCI, all of whom I met during affinity group events: V5 and V20 partners - black male and female, and one additional black female associate. After weeks of chasing him for lunch - I must have sent 5 emails without any reply lol - he finally found time to have lunch with me. I kept in touch over the summer and I approached him with interviewing concerns. He literally called me several nights before OCI and walked me through the entire process - what questions I can expect to be asked, how to answer them, how to tailor questions to specific firms - his help was indispensable and I know I walked into OCI much more confident because of him. My other partner mentor was my bidding guide. I was very honest about my grades and she told me where I should and should not bid in various markets. My firm wasn't even on my radar until I met her and followed her advice. My associate mentor and I connected immediately because I recognized her at a previous affinity group event and because I remembered some of her talking points, we instantly hit it off! We also both LOVED anime She offered more interviewing advice, and even made time to meet me for lunch. OCI is an anxiety-inducing process and you need someone - an objective observer who isn't freaking out like you are i.e. not a fellow law student - to confide in. As you can see, I approached each mentor for slightly different concerns. You don't have to follow what I did, but I do recommend you find more than one mentor in different firms. Remember, you start building your reputation as a lawyer while in law school.
Finally, partners and associates give the best advice; partners make the final decisions and associates are generally privy to what the hiring committee looks for in a candidate. Feel free to take my advice all you want, but I can only share my personal experience and observations. I urge you to forge relationships with power players at different firms - not all advice is created equal and it never hurts to get a second opinion. When people introduce themselves as hiring partners at various events, your attention should zero in on them. Introduce yourself, send a thank you note and ask if they're available to talk or have lunch/coffee. If they're unavailable, be persistent. Every week or so, send them a reminder! It's a delicate balance, however. Don't hassle the crap out of them lol...but if you want that lunch or coffee date, make sure you get it.
Transfer admission is definitely an attractive option for those at lower ranked schools who have received top grades in their 1L year. Remember, most people transfer to a higher ranked school to maximize their exposure and increase their chances of securing a high-paying legal job. There are many factors to consider, however, such as whether you'll lose your scholarship money, your spot on law review, your relationships with professors, etc. And of course, there is no guarantee that transfer students crush OCI. They, too, can struggle and may even end up without jobs just like others. For more information on Transfer Admissions, please see our forum. As a gentle reminder, please read the directions before posting in the Transfer forum. Finally, and most pertinent to this thread, there is very little, if any, URM boost for transfer admissions:
vanwinkle wrote:As a successful transfer, and someone who has talked to many who have tried transferring, this is what I have to share: The "URM boost" is far weaker for transfer applications than 0L admissions. You need grades that are at least in the ballpark for actually transferring from your current school, URM or not. There isn't a huge URM boost in the transfer process that I'm aware of, so don't count on one being there for you; it might help you stand out and edge out someone else, but it won't make up for anything less than a stellar 1L performance.
I did not make LR, but I have some wonderful friends who did!!! Please see below for their thoughts on the process.
URM HLR Editor #1 wrote: I don’t really recommend doing any preparation before the write-on competition. I would recommend attending an information session if they have one at your school, because it is helpful to know the format going in. Before the competition starts, take care of things you need to care of, because you’re in for a busy and exhausting week – probably the busiest and most exhausting week of your entire 1L year, and it comes after finals. One helpful thing to do is to check out Eugene Volokh’s academic legal writing. It wasn’t the most on-point for the format that HLR uses, but it is helpful.
When you get the packet, make copies of the subcite portion if your school does it by hand, and have a couple of binders to put the case comment and subcite materials in.
For the case comment, pick a thesis that is doctrinal (you can discuss normative implications, but sticking close to the black letter law is best), narrow and defensible (possibly the most important thing for the case comment is that it is defensible and legally sound), and if possible, interesting that makes good use of materials. But if you had to omit one of these, omit interesting. You want to focus on keeping it narrow, defensible, and legally sound.
For the subcite, read it very carefully. The errors introduced are very sneaky. Look at the portion of the Bluebook you will be responsible for prior to the competition if possible (at HLS, we’re responsible for only a small portion). Common and tricky errors are replacing “l” with “1,” having a journal that has the year number for the volume and the year number parenthetical (if the year is the volume number, omit the parenthetical date), pincites that are one page off, wrong journals (“Cal. L. Rev.” versus “Calif. L. Rev.”; I believe the latter is correct), a word a font size or half size larger than neighboring font, a random italicized letter in a non-italicized word, misspelled difficult words (certiorari), and misspellings of words that are cut off from one line to the next. Also look for bigger structural mistakes (sentences in wrong order or paragraphs in wrong place) since those are usually worth more point. Keep a very tight eye on things. It’s probably worthwhile to read the subcite portion right next to the list of possible errors. Also, consider paying for the online bluebook. I didn’t when I was doing the competition, but now that I have access to it, I think it is very useful and time saving.
At HLS, the case comment is worth 60% and the subcite is worth 40%, so I tried to spend about that much time on it. I think it’s worth looking at the subcite early and often, since you will usually pick up on new errors everytime you read it through. Keep editing your work, and make sure it is fairly well-supported.
At HLS we have to turn in ours hard copy, so make sure you go to the printer earlier, since there can often be a long line. You don’t want to be stressing about getting the competition in on time.
HLR has 10 discretionary spots. These are mainly for diverse and minority candidates, defined rather broadly to include groups such as south Asians, Hispanics, and members of the LGBT community. Although some spots are for applicants who had very high write-on scores that might have just missed the cut-off.
Possibly my best advice is to finish the competition. I’ve heard anecdotally that a significant percentage of people who start the competition don’t finish, and even those that do, a large chunk are mailing it in just to say they turned it in. Make sure you’re in the category of people who gave it a real strong good faith effort, because your work might end up being better than you thought.
HLR was definitely an advantage in the OCI process, but it wasn’t the end-all be all. I think firms care more about grades, but it was pretty helpful in talking to people (especially HLR alumni and other interviewers who were on law review).
URM HLR Editor #2 wrote: Did you do anything to prepare for the competition?
My only preparation for the competition involved attending the tips sessions HLR hosted and reading, cover to cover, the competition tips packet HLR provided. The packet included a sample case comment, a sample subcite answer sheet, and a nonexhaustive list of typical errors found in the subcite. Using that, I became familiar and comfortable with the work product they considered successful.
I also owe a lot of background preparation to my two semesters on another HLS journal, HLPR, where I was a subciter and then a student articles editor. I do not know how the journal currently runs, but my 1L year the subciting process seemed more involved than some other journals'. My tasks hovered the line of a subciter and a line editor in some instances. I was not just mechanically checking sources against how they were supposed to be formatted in the Bluebook, but I also was ensuring that the sources' text aligned with the authors' characterizations. Those types of substantive errors are point-heavy errors on the HLR competition, and those two semesters of training were helpful.
How did you approach the competition? Did you focus on the case comment more than the subcite or vice/versa? Why? What was your timeline?
Helpfully, both the subcite and the case comment are closed-universe activities. HLR provides you with the Bluebook rules and internal conventions they are looking to test on the subcite, and it includes the case law and a variety of secondary sources/law review articles off which to base your case comment. You will pick up your packet on a Friday afternoon, and I spent that first half day digesting everything slowly and not hitting the ground too intensely. I read through the subject case of the case comment and its related precedent. I then scanned the secondary materials to get a gist of the various arguments they offered. I wrote brief outlines of preliminary arguments that caught my eye. I turned to the subcite that evening. Copy the subcite. As many times as you think might be helpful. (It is common for there to be misplaced sentences and paragraphs that will need rearranging, so having extra copies that you can cut up, destroy, or glance at with a fresh eye is beneficial.) I did only a rough grammar check of the piece that evening. I love grammar, so this was a nonstressful way to ease into that half of the competition, too. In that pass, I looked for obvious errors like subject-verb disagreement, misspellings, and so on.
There wasn't much rhyme or reason to how I approached the next six days. For the case comment, applicants often get stuck on perfecting their arguments. Don't let that delay the process. Only the second half of the case comment is argument based -- the first half is a "reporting" section. If you can restate facts and procedural posture in your own words, then that is a great way to get half of the case comment out of the way before fully cementing your thesis. And if you end up having writer's block for the reporting section, then make the subcite your friend for that hour or two. Whatever you do, do not put off either half of the competition until the end. Subciting will be more involved than you think it will. The wording for your case comment will be more difficult to formulate than you think it will. And, importantly, until there is an electronic submission format, copying the many pages of your entry for submission will take longer than you think it will, so keep working.
What are HLR graders looking for in potential candidates?
Following ALL of the rules is most of the battle. For the case comment, HLR provides a very clear outline of how your writing should proceed. (They even provide what language you should use for the introductory sentences of most of the paragraphs!) It isn't quite the time to produce a creative structural approach to legal arguments. Case comments are ranked against each other from best to worst in groups of eight. A sensible argument that is formatted how HLR advises will do well. Read all of the rules for the subcite with a similar level of detail. For the competition I took as a 1L and the competition I graded as a 2L, HLR asked for labels that identified the errors, explanations of the errors, and clear suggestions that would make the text or footnote correct. As a grader, you are instructed not to award points when all of these elements aren't met. I have seen a lot of correct suggestions receive no points because of this. And unlike the case comment, the subcite is graded purely numerically, so there isn't much per-question wiggle room for recovering from lost points. Graders are allotted discretionary points here, too, which I awarded to applicants whose comments were particularly well written and thorough.
Does affirmative action play any role in selecting candidates, and if so, how?
Thirty-four editors are chosen initially -- two from each section who are chosen based on grades and the writing competition and twenty applicants who scored the highest on the writing competition. The discretionary committee then meets to fill approximately 10 remaining spots, which can be based on a variety of factors (e.g., the 21st-highest scorer on the competition or something similar). This discussion also includes looking at applicants who have filled out a form that indicates being considered through HLR's affirmative action policy. When I took the competition, this included various ethnic minorities and students with disabilities.
How did Law Review affect OCI?
I assume that HLR was a boost for the "reach" firm I ended up accepting. I didn't have an exhaustive OCI experience since I planned to split with my 1L summer firm, so I have no idea!
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