Two Law School Deans Speak to UNM Pre-Law Students
February 6, 2003
Tamara Martinez-Anderson, Assistant Dean of Admissions
at Gonzaga Law School, and Vince Thomas, Assistant Dean of Students
at Hamline Law School, addressed UNM pre-law students in Room 2069
of the Political Science Department on Thursday, February 6, 2003.
The Deans spoke about many facets of law school admissions. The
group of UNM students in attendance was highly diverse: freshmen,
sophomores, juniors, and seniors were represented, as were students
from a variety of majors and programs.
Dean Martinez-Anderson and Dean Thomas led students
in a "mock admissions" exercise. Law School Reports and
application materials from actual law school applicants (with personal
names deleted, of course) were handed out and discussed. The purposes
served by this "mock admissions" were multiple. First,
the simulation showed students exactly what a Law School Report
looks like. After this exercise, everyone was aware of the level
of detail captured in an individual's Law School Report (remember
this when you apply). Second, Mr. Thomas walked students through
a process of how admissions officers read the reports; for example,
he used Socratic questioning (he is a law professor as well as a
dean) to get students to look for patterns and problems with an
actual student's transcript, as revealed in the intricate details
of the report. Third, the exercise demonstrated that applications
are looked at as a package--that is, personal statements are looked
at in relation to grades, LSAT scores, etc--and it is important
for all the "parts" of the package to be assembled in
a logical way. Fourth, the "mock admissions" revealed
that admissions criteria include an inescapably subjective component;
this means that careful planning and preparation are crucial as
you make decisions regarding your own application. Fifth, the exercise
demonstrated the importance of writing a strong personal statement.
Indeed, as a group, we saw what admissions officers see: a compelling
personal statement can win over people on the admissions committee.
Sixth, the simulation illustrated in painful, vivid detail what
is increasingly true in today's era of increasing applications:
law schools have fewer slots than applicants, and not every capable
student is going to receive the "admit" vote rather than
the "defer" or "reject" vote from a given committee.
Students heard important advice about how to be better
prepared when applying to law school. Mr. Thomas cautioned against
being "a default law student" (or appearing to be one
in your personal statement). The best personal statements, he continued,
are sometimes ones in which people are brave enough to "take
some risks," even with the full knowledge that "you may
alienate some readers." Ms. Martinez-Anderson agreed; as she
put it, "we need to know you well" after reading your
In responding to a question from a student who was
unsure about how to get started on his personal statement, Ms. Martinez-Anderson
suggested: "Tell us about the experiences that shaped you,
and also tell us about the person you want to become."
Both speakers emphasized the importance of self-assessment
in every stage of the pre-law preparation process. "Why do
I want to do this [law school]" is the question Mr. Thomas
challenged all the pre-law students in attendance to think about.
If you aren't clear on why you want to attend law school, he explained,
you may not convince the admissions committee to accept you.
Mr. Thomas and Ms. Martinez-Anderson also discussed
LSAT scores as a component of law school admissions. At Gonzaga,
Ms. Martinez-Anderson explained, admissions officers sometimes wonder
why students do not repeat the LSAT after receiving an exceptionally
low score. However, both she and Mr. Thomas spoke against re-taking
the LSAT without prior careful thought and analysis. For example,
they pointed out that schools are advised to average the scores,
that the individual's Law School Report shows all scores, that students
often score in the same range on a second try, and that students
sometimes score lower the second time. Even if the score improves,
Mr. Thomas noted, insofar as the Law School Report shows all scores,
the admission committee sees that the higher score is based on an
extra chance/test and they may not give this the same weight as
an identical score made by someone on only one try. In short, both
speakers urged students to think carefully and to obtain accurate
information before making any decision about re-taking the LSAT.
At the end of the presentation and the general question-and-answer
session, some students remained to take advantage of the opportunity
to speak one-to-one with Ms. Martinez-Anderson and Mr. Thomas. The
informal discussions allowed students to get additional insights
on special programs at Gonzaga and Hamline, personal LSAT scores,
personal transcript analysis, and law as a profession.
As your pre-law advisor, I was thrilled to see an
event of this nature in our pre-law program. I felt lucky to have
been able to share an afternoon with such inspiring speakers as
Deans Martinez-Anderson and Thomas. I was delighted to see UNM pre-law
students getting first-hand looks at Law School Reports and getting
the chance to have the admission process analyzed with such honesty
and specificity as that shared by Ms. Martinez-Anderson and Mr.
After it was all over, my only regret was that we
could not stay longer and address all the questions that remained.
. . However, we'll have many other such events in coming weeks,
months, semesters, and years. Watch the pre-law calendar on this
web page and/or subscribe to the pre-law listserv psc2602-L for
announcements of upcoming events.