Stephen Brown, the assistant dean of enrollment at the Fordham University School of Law, knows the angst that comes with meeting a law school representative. He has been to possibly 60 recruitment forums, answering questions from nervous applicants and noticing those who make the peculiar choice of wearing beach attire for the professional event.
He believes the Law School Admission Council recruitment forums are an easy way for prospective students to get ahead in the admissions process.
"A real advantage is they get to talk to lots of different people from different schools," he says. Aspiring J.D. candidates can ask questions that are not covered by school websites.
Brown was one of many school representatives in attendance Saturday at the LSAC's first recruitment forum of 2013. Between 140 and 160 schools attend each forum, which is held in nine locations around the U.S. and one location in Canada.
The forums are much like a college fair but also include workshops on how to apply, pay for and succeed at law school. They occur between June and November and give hundreds of students one-on-one opportunities to speak with law school representatives.
Though filled with opportunities for networking and learning about legal education, the forums can also be challenging: There's so much to do, not much time and limited ways to participate virtually.
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There are limited options for staying abreast from a distance. Sessions are not live streamed or conducted through Google Hangouts, though prospective students can follow live tweets, says Wendy Margolis, director of communications for LSAC. As travel becomes more expensive, the LSAC is considering other forms of engaging students through technology, she says.
For those able to make the trip, forums last one or two days. They offer about five or six workshops taught by practicing attorneys, members of the LSAC test development staff and other legal professionals.
"The financial aid workshop and the LSAT workshop are extremely popular," says Margolis. Even if forum participants are interested in some of the other workshops, such as the ones on diversity or learning about industry jobs, they should plan for a packed crowd. "The workshops most of the time are standing room only," she says.
Workshops can be helpful for applicants who are unsure of how to approach school representatives, says Traci Howard, assistant dean for admissions at California Western School of Law.
"A lot of the conversations that happen in the workshops can form the questions and help the applicant engage with the representatives in a better way. Because they're armed with the right information when they're going into the tables," she says.
Some of the biggest mistakes students make at these events are not managing their time wisely and not asking thoughtful questions, experts say. Several applicants make the mistake of thinking the forums are an opportunity to turn schools against each other as they compete for students, Howard says.
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"They ask the rep to tell me why you're better than this school or tell me why you're better than that school," she says. "It's a question that I think is commonly asked, and it's a question that frustrates a lot of law school representatives because really we're not there to compare ourselves to other schools. The forums are really a means for us to provide information to you about our law schools and a means for prospective students to gather that information."
Students should be prepared to have a lengthy wait if they want to speak with a school that's located in the same state as the forum. These institutions are often the most popular and have long lines at the school tables.
"If we're at a forum in Los Angeles, all of the California schools are really slammed," Howard says. "We may not have a lot of opportunities to have a conversation with a potential applicant."