Pre-law Panthers rise to the competition

Raul Herrera/Staff Writer

Pre-law students face a new challenge as they spend their years preparing for postgraduate studies.

In a recent survey by Kaplan Test Prep, 54 percent of law school admissions officers reported that they will be cutting their incoming classes for the 2013-2014 year. The study also noted that 25 percent of law schools are planning to make cuts next year. This displays an increase from the 51 percent of law schools that are making cuts as reported by Kaplan Test Prep last year.

Stephany Montano, sophomore English and political science major, finds the trend troubling.

“It’s already hard enough to get into law school as it is, and now that they’re cutting admittance, it makes it even more competitive,” said Montano. “Everybody wants to be the best.”

The University’s College of Law, however, displays a different route.

“We are very much going against the trend. We’re not reducing class size,” said R. Alex Acosta, dean of College of Law.

Statistics from the College of Law show that 595 of the 2,686 applicants in 2012 were admitted, signaling an admittance rate of about 22 percent for that year. This year’s fact sheet showed that 558 of the 2,129 applicants were admitted (26 percent), indicating an increase in rates of admission.

“Two things are going on: over a four year period there has been an increase in applicants, not a decrease,” said Acosta. “You can’t just look at the number of applicants, you have to look at who the applicants are.”

Acosta went on to mention the college’s emphasis on quality of applicants, those with better LSAT scores applying as opposed to those with lower scores.

“Our class is exactly where we want it to be. Except for the goal that we set, there are no plans to decrease it. Our class size has not been impacted by the trend,” said Acosta, citing that the college is 105th in a U.S. News ranking.

He also pointed to the recent increase in GPA for the current class – which is at 3.73 for the majority of students according to a pamphlet released by the College of Law – and in LSAT scores where 75 percent of students scored a 158 according to the very same pamphlet.

The Kaplan Test Prep survey also showed that 78 percent of law school admissions officers believe that the curricula of American legal studies needs to be reformed to better prepare students for careers as attorneys.

According to Acosta, the College of Law has a plethora of clinical programs for students to better prepare themselves for future careers.

“I believe we have about 115 clinical programs, which is an incredible [amount] because that doesn’t count externships,” said Acosta.

“The other thing we’ve started to really push: externships,” said Acosta. He said the college is one of the most important clinical programs, increasing chances of employment.

“Under The Florida Bar rule, if you have 48 credits, you are allowed to go to court and represent clients. So what students do in these externships is go to court and prosecute or defend clients in small cases that nonetheless offer significant experience,” said Acosta.

Acosta mentioned that many graduates have found employment thanks to the program.

“Do you want to hire someone whom you had the opportunity to observe firsthand, or do you hire someone off their résumé?” said Acosta.

The College of Law rates have not influenced Montano’s decision as to what universities she should apply to.

“My dream has always been to go out of state. My top choice right now is Stanford Law School,” said Montano.

Montano clarified that she wishes to get her bachelor’s degree at the University and her law degree out of state.

Meanwhile, Montano will not let the rise in competitiveness for law schools faze her as she follows the pre-law track.

“Law school has been my dream since I was in the fifth grade,” said Montano, “My whole focus in middle school, high school, [and everything else] was ‘I need to get good grades, I need to go to a good college, get a good GPA there, get a good grade in the LSAT, because I have to get into law school’.”

“And I will if I work hard enough,” said Montano, “I did my own research and not a lot of people apply to law school with a double major or a minor, they apply with just the pre-law track or any other major. So I’m doing my best, you know, to stand out.”

1 Comment on "Pre-law Panthers rise to the competition"

  1. Going to law school is a VERY poor choice in this economy. There are macroeconomic factors that one individual’s “passion” cannot change (international outsourcing, technology like predictive coding lowering need for entry level lawyers, the overall dismal economy lowering need legal work, widespread use of legal self-help tools like LegalZoom, etc.). Many law school graduates end up with $100-250,000 in non-dischargeable debt and can’t even land a job. When they do get jobs with small firms, the starting salaries are usually in the $40-50,000 range. Some small firms even ask entry level lawyers to work for free as “interns” before they pay them.

    You will get no respect as an entry level lawyer and treated as a worthless commodity. You could also go on the document review circuit – where you earn $20-32/hour for categorizing documents. It’s mindless work but it can buy you ramen noodles and keep a roof over your head. The work is inconsistent, project-based, and the project managers can be cruel, micromanaging individuals. Tens of thousands of law school graduates work on doc review projects. Do some Google research if you don’t believe me.

    The enormous downturn in the legal market impacts not just lower-tier graduates but also hurts higher-ranked schools. Check out the story in the LA Times about a USC School of Law graduate who owes $200,000 in debt and has to live with his parents in his late 20s to make debt payments:,0,7057189.story

    That USC law graduate is just the one who chose to come forward. There are thousands like him who don’t want to come forward for fear of embarrassment or shame. Law school is a horrible racket that ruins many lives. Think before you do it. Spend a LOT of time reading blogs, books (recommend Paul Campos’ book and “Don’t Go to Law School (Unless)”), and talking to law school graduates (and not just the ones who have jobs you want).

    Law schools also lie and mislead about job statistics so take everything they say with an enormous grain of salt.

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