Welcome to Fall 2022!

(Note: this just went out to the pre-law email list. If you’re not already on that list, you can join it here.)

Welcome and welcome back! I’m excited to see you all filling up the campus and town again, and I’m looking forward to seeing you in person next week.

This is a long first email, because I’ve got so much to share with you — about advising meetings, student groups of interest to pre-laws, upcoming events, and things to be thinking about based on where you find yourself in your pre-law journey. But my future weekly emails will mostly be shorter, I promise! The headings should help you quickly find what you’re looking for, but remember that the Pre-Law Advising website is always there for you, full of great info and resources.

Advising meetings

You can schedule a meeting with me any time through the Navigate system — MTuTh, 9am – 3pm. You’ll see there’s an option for virtual or in-person — I love seeing people in person, but virtual is totally fine, and of course recommended if you’re sick, test positive, been exposed, etc. etc. I’m generally not wearing a mask these days, but will happily put one on for in-person meetings if you’d prefer — don’t be afraid to ask.

If you arrive early for an appointment, please don’t wait in the hallway. There’s a lounge right around the corner from my office on the west side of the 2nd floor (opposite side of the building from the elevators) — please feel free to hang out there until your appointment time. (If you’re a grad student or an alum, please feel free to email me for an appointment.)

And remember, there’s no set schedule for meeting with me, and no minimum or maximum numbers of meetings you should have with your pre-law advisor! Whenever you have a question that you’d like answered in person (rather than through the website or via email), feel free to schedule yourself for a meeting.

Student groups
You shouldn’t feel that you have to join a law-related student group just because you’re thinking about a future legal career. But if you’d like to, we’ve got at least three great groups to think about joining:

  • UMass Pre-Law Club
    Look for the student-run Pre-Law Club at the Student Activities Expo on 9/10 and follow them on Instagram for news about their first meeting.
  • UMass Mock Trial Team
    The UMass Mock Trial Team will also be at the Student Activities Expo. They’ll hold info sessions on 9/10 and 9/11, and the tryouts will be the following weekend, on 9/17 and 9/18. All the details are here.
  • UMass Debate Society
    A competitive debate team that travels to Northeastern universities for tournaments. Anyone can join, regardless of experience or time commitment. We also pride ourselves on being a no-cost team; all expenses are covered and members do not pay dues. Info sessions on 9/13 and 9/14. Join their email list to get the details.

Upcoming Events

We’re starting off quickly with a range of events in September, and many more to come. You can always find our events listing here. Note that we should be adding a lawyer-alum networking event the week of 9/20 — details to come.

Thursday, Sept. 8th, 1 pm, 420 Thompson: Golden Gate University School of Law Assistant Admissions Director Mateo Jenkins will give insider tips about the admissions process.
Saturday, Sept. 10th, 1 pm – 4 pm, Suffolk Law School (Boston): Boston Law Fair. Meet reps from over 60 schools.  
Tuesday, Sept. 13th, 5 pm, 420 Thompson: Info Session on the Law School Application Process. Everything you need to know to compile a successful application.
Wednesday, Sept. 28th, 5 pm, 420 ThompsonLaw School Personal Statement Workshop. Bring your favorite writing tool! This is a WORKING workshop!

Year-by-year Plan

I know that most pre-laws like nothing better than a clear plan of action, and I am here to help! Below is a set of suggestions and thoughts by class year (and/or where you are in the process of thinking about or applying to law school). Remember, though, that you can never be behind on your law school journey! Only a minority of applicants each year are seniors in college — most people wait a year or more after graduation before applying. So think of this as helpful suggestions, rather than a to-do list you have to complete by a specific time.

Seniors (and alums) applying to law school this fall:

You are our first priority during the peak application season. You should be aiming to submit your applications by mid- to late November in order to have the best chances of admission. The pre-law advising office is available to assist you with figuring out the application process, trimming your list of schools, and developing your personal statement. If you’d like some feedback on your personal statement, resume, or other essays, feel free to schedule an appointment or to simply email your drafts. There will also be several opportunities to meet admissions reps on campus, in Boston and NYC, and virtually, as well as to learn more about various common aspects of the application process. Check the Events calendar for details. We strongly recommend meeting with admissions reps whenever you can — it’s a great way to learn more about different schools, the application process, and the profession in general.  

Juniors (and seniors not applying this year):

Your priority this year should start with recommenders: have you developed the kinds of professional relationships with professors and employers (or internship supervisors or volunteer coordinators) that will yield enthusiastic recommendations? The Zoom U experience of 20-21 has made this tougher for everyone, so you are definitely not the only one. Transfer students have even less time to do this. But it’s not too late AT ALL! Prioritize getting to know your professors this year: participate in classes, visit office hours, and seek out research opportunities  And of course, produce quality work that your professors will want to talk about in letters of recommendation.

As your schedule fills up with 300 and 400-level courses (and/or possibly a thesis), it’s important to keep your grades up as well. If you’re worried about any P/F classes you took during the remote semesters, don’t be. Again, you’re not the only one, and the law schools are looking at the whole package you put together, not just a single grade here are there. You’ll find more about grades here to allay your concerns.

As the semester moves along, you’ll also want to start thinking about Spring/Summer 2023 internships and/or post-grad jobs. These are great opportunities to further explore the legal career path and start to make connections in the profession. Buff up your Handshake and LinkedIn profiles, and meet with the career and professional development advisors in your college to ensure you’re positioning yourself as well as possible for your job search. Finally, if you’re planning to apply in Fall 2023 (to start law school in Fall 2024), by this coming Spring, you’ll need to start thinking about standardized tests —whether to take the LSAT or GRE, when you’ll take it and how you’ll prepare. For a Fall 2023 application, you’ll ideally have taken the LSAT or GRE by September or October 2023.

First-years and Sophomores:

The most important thing you can do right now is to continue exploring legal careers and other alternatives in order to figure out for sure whether law school is right for you. Internships and networking with lawyer-alums are the key ways to pursue this exploration.

For sophomores, you’ll also want to make sure you’re in the right major for you, and that you’re beginning to build strong professional relationships with your professors. These are helpful goals in and of themselves, but they’ll also help you in your pursuit of a third goal: achieving strong grades.

And last but not least: Welcome again to UMass! I’m really happy to have you here on campus and like everyone else who works here, I want to make sure you have a successful experience all four years. So please don’t worry about law school right now—there is literally nothing you can do this year that will dramatically affect your eventual law school chances. The adjustment to college, on the other hand, can be tough. Honor this transition by giving it your full attention, secure in the knowledge that back-burnering your law school aspirations for the time being will not in any way put you behind on some imagined schedule. Learn how to be a college student—as lawyer-alum Joshua Grammel says in this brief video, the study habits you develop now will serve you well in law school (and beyond).

Connecting with Pre-Law Advising

As all the embedded links above should make clear, there are a TON of resources on the Pre-Law Advising website. If you can’t find what you need there, always feel free to email me at prelaw@umass.edu. (Also, if you discover any broken links, I’m always grateful for the heads up.)

Also check out our social media @UMassPreLaw — on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Instagram will primarily update you about law-related events, both those that my office hosts and others. On Twitter, I tend to share a bunch of news about legal education, the admissions process, and the profession — stuff I don’t really share elsewhere, but is the most up-to-date info. Facebook, well, you know how that is these days. A little like visiting a dusty old attic, so I confess you won’t find too much new there. (But if it somehow experiences a Gen Z revival, I’m ready!)

And don’t forget that I have a real live office, in 210 Thompson. Stop by any time! I can’t promise you I’ll always be available, especially during the first weeks of school, but if I am, I’d be happy to chat. And if you’ve read this far, I’ve got a related scavenger hunt for you as a reward: if you can figure out why we might all feel a little ambivalent about having a building named for John “Iron Duke” Thompson (besides that nickname), I’ll come up with a special law-related prize for you.

Here’s to a fantastic school year!

By Diane Curtis
Diane Curtis Pre-Law Advisor & Senior Lecturer