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Raising The Bar

Successful program gives insight into the true meaning of being a pre-law student at BC

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 01:02

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, the AHANA Pre-Law Student Association (APLSA) hosted a "Law School 101 Series" event, which focused on the seemingly simple question: "What does it mean to be pre-law at BC?" While academic tracks for fields such as medicine and finance have clear undergraduate course requirements, the declaration of being a "pre-law" student is a more general one. The event was aimed toward sophomores who are considering a career in the law and was hosted by the APLSA and the Boston College Career Center. The Career Center, along with the office of the dean, offers suggestions for undergraduate courses that will be helpful in preparation for the LSAT and in understanding the law. It is, however, an eclectic list, featuring courses across departments and schools—from elementary Latin to African Business, for example.

The Career Center’s pre-law advisor, Dom DeLeo, recognizes the anxieties some students have about the lack of a clear path from undergraduate courses to law school, but he stresses that the wide range of specialties in the profession reflects the endless possibilities for a pre-law track. "We want to be very clear to people—you can study anything at all and apply to law school," he said. "As far as law schools are concerned, any self-actualizing, self expressing thing you choose to do, can help an application.

"Students are concerned sometimes that there isn’t the structure to the pre-law program that there is for pre med," DeLeo added. "But this is a profession that welcomes candidates from across the spectrum of majors and across the spectrum of professions."

Declaring oneself pre-law may not necessarily provide a clear track, but it does provide helpful guidance and support. "You can’t really call the pre-law program a program, since there is no requirement," said Chantal Choi, president of the APLSA and A&S ’13. "But our organization is in close contact with Dom and we talk about events that would be helpful to undergrads. He will provide us with BC law school contacts and also [with] students that he personally knows to help us with our events, if needed."

Professor Juan Concepcion, who holds master’s, bachelor’s, and law degrees from BC, teaches classes on race and constitutional law that tend to attract students with a general interest in how our society comes to interpret and shape our legal system. He is currently teaching a course called Race Law & Resistance, and notes in his course description that it is a class suited for students interested in pursuing degrees in the law. "I think that it’s important for students who are interested in the law, whether it’s a deep interest or superficial one, to start understanding how questions may be asked of them," he said. But he notes that most students do not turn away from the difficult material—rather, they look to pursue it. "From my previous classes I find that a lot of students, if they were on the fence about going to law school, they’ve been inspired to go."

Statistically, BC is a great place for future attorneys. In 2011, 88 percent of BC applicants to law schools were admitted, compared to 71 percent of nationwide applicants. And, in a recent University survey of graduates from the class of 2011, 24.7 percent of students who were pursuing graduate degrees were pursuing their J.D. It is clear that BC is a place that attracts and perhaps breeds students who are interested in law, especially when these stats are compared with national averages. DeLeo suggests that the high numbers of BC graduates who go to law school reflects the student body and the culture of the campus. "This is a place where students who want to lead apply," he said. "This is a place where people have strong analytical, verbal, and writing skills. They have an interest in the law and part of their value system is the idea of participating, giving back, and serving."

While BC continues to feed students into some of the nation’s top law schools, national interest in law school may be declining. According to The New York Times, the number of LSAT tests administered in Oct. of 2012 fell 16 percent from that same testing period in 2011. Between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 application cycles, administered tests fell 24 percent, from 171,514 to 129,958. In March 2010 Slate Magazine published an article suggesting that the law school "bubble" had burst, and more recently, in December 2012, CNN Money’s website published an article with the title, "Does Law School Have a Future?" If one were to take to heart every article written recently on law school application rates, it would almost seem like a J.D. has become passe.

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