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The Southern and Southwestern Associations of Prelaw Advisors invite you to our upcoming joint conference September 13 – 15 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Our two regions are excited to join together to provide you with this valuable professional development opportunity designed to update you on current information and trends, exchange best practices, network with fellow advisors from both regions, and connect with law school representatives from across the U.S.    Our hotel is a historic building overlooking the Mississippi River and full of funky Memphis memorabilia.

This year’s conference is dedicated to helping our students make the best informed decisions regarding attending law school: selecting schools which are the best fit with their goals, and understanding the current and changing climate in admissions, legal education, legal employment, and financial issues. It includes visits to our Dean’s Diamond Sponsors, the University of Memphis School of Law, University of Mississippi School of Law, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law, with an opening reception at the National Civil Rights Museum.

2017 SAPLA/SWAPLA Conference Schedule


Tuesday, September 12 – Madison Hotel, Memphis
Conference Registration/Check-in: 4:00-7:00 pm – Madison Hotel Mezzanine


Wednesday, September 13 – University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

  • Conference Registration/Check-in: 7:30-10:30 am – Madison Hotel Mezzanine
  • Breakfast for those attending Newcomers Session: 8:00 – 9:00 am – Gordon Ball Reading Room, 4th floor
  • Newcomers Session: 9:15 – 11:15 am – Gordon Ball Reading Room, 4th floor
    • For advisors with five or fewer years of experience in Pre-Law Advising. Designed as an introduction to pre-law advising, this session covers a range of topics and resources to help those new to the profession.
    • Panelists: Lisa Buentello – Director, Institute for Law and Public Affairs, University of Texas-San Antonio; Aaron M. Houck, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Pre-Law Advisor, Queens University of Charlotte; R. Jay Shively, Asst. Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid, Wake Forest University School of Law
  • Lunch hosted by University of Memphis Law School (everyone): 11:30 am – 1:00 pm – Wade Auditorium (Room 136)
    • Welcome by Dean Peter Letsou
    • You Won’t Believe This! A Dive Into the World of the Ridiculous – What Admissions Officers See and Hear
      • This session is designed for the purpose of acquainting pre-law advisors, both veteran and new, with the sometimes wacky world that law school admissions officers live in, especially with this texting generation. Admissions Officers will share some bizarre, tacky, tasteless, unbelievable applications, communications, visits and items they have received from applicants.  Though this may be presented in a light-hearted manner, the intent is serious. These are no-nos that pre-law advisors should convey to their advisees.
      • Panelists:  Gerald Wilson, Sr. Assoc. Dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, Duke University
  • Breakout session #1: 1:15 – 2:35 pm
    • Career Services / Professional School Pre-Law Advisors – Historic Courtroom, Room 336
      • Two veteran advisors will share their approaches to advising, best practices, challenges, concerns, and methods of balancing the competing demands on time. They will also open up the floor for an interactive exercise and to generate ideas.
      • Panelists: Lori Williams DeKalb, Pre-Law Advisor, Academic Advising Resource Center, The University of Oklahoma; Rodia Vance, Associate Director and University Pre-Law Advisor, The Career Center, Emory University
    • Faculty Pre-Law Advisors – Small courtroom – Room 310
      • This panel will explore the specific issues and difficulties often faced by pre-law advisors who also serve as faculty members for their colleges and universities.  Topics raised during the session will include how best to balance the two roles of faculty member and pre-law advisor; how much time should be allotted to each; how to ensure one’s work as an advisor is recognized and rewarded by one’s institution; what proper compensation for work as an advisor should be (and how to ask for it); and any other issue that those in such dual roles might face.  After opening the meeting by sharing some of their own experiences in balancing the roles of faculty member and pre-law advisors, the session leaders will propose topics for discussion by the group at large. They will also ask for questions from participants and for the strategies those in the group have pursued in making these two roles work as successfully as they can at their home institutions.
      • Panelists: Mel Hailey, Professor of Political Science and University Pre-Law Advisor, Abilene Christian University; Scott Lucas, Professor of English and Pre-Law Advisor, The Citadel
  • Breakout session #2:  2:45 – 4:00 pm
    • Schools smaller than 5000 students – Small courtroom, Room 310
      • Pre-law advisors at small schools know that advising methods, student outreach, and experiential learning programs can pose challenges and present opportunities. We hope to use this panel to showcase best practices, share ideas and challenges, and facilitate discussion with the audience about the best ways for our membership to think of ways to help our students.
      • Panelists: Joanne Black, Asst. Professor Sociology and Criminal Studies, Salem College; Parker Hevron, Asst. Professor of Government, Texas Woman’s University; Sandy Self, Professor and Department Chair, Political Science, Hardin-Simmons University; Wendy Vonnegut, Director, Legal Studies Program, Methodist University
    • Schools larger than 5000 students – Historic Courtroom, Room 336
      • Pre-law advisors at large universities face difficulties in reaching their students, managing a large volume of advisees, and providing resources. There are also a lot of opportunities that being housed on a large campus offers. The panelists will share ideas and challenges and facilitate discussion with the audience to solicit more ideas of how to help reach and help students.
      • Panelists: Hong Tran Escobar, Law School Admissions Coach, Liberal Arts Career Services, University of Texas; Michelle Hightower, Coordinator of Academic Advising Services, Pre-Health and Pre-Law Advising Office, University of Central Florida; Wendy Bolton McMillian, Associate Registrar, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Alabama; Karen W. Severn, Assistant Director of Professional School Advising, Career Center, Texas A&M University
  • Conference Registration / Check-in: 4:30 – 6:00 pm – Madison Hotel Mezzanine
  • Opening Reception with Hors D’oeuvres at the National Civil Rights Museum, 6:30– 9:00


Thursday, September 14 – University of Mississippi School of Law

  • Conference Registration/Check-in: 7:00 – 7:45 am – Madison Hotel Mezzanine
  • Travel: Buses leave University of Memphis Loading Zone at 8:00 am; breakfast provided on bus
  • Tour: 10:00 – 10:20 am
  • Breakout Session #3: 10:30 – 11:30 am
    • Why Students Go to Law School (or not): A Blueprint for Action – Moot Court Room (Room 2035)
      • The absence of national-level empirical evidence to explain recent declines in applications to law schools should be a concern to all of us interested in the health and well-being of legal education and the legal profession. Over the course of this session, Judy Areen and Jeff Allum will provide an overview of Before the JD, a nationwide study intended to understand the factors contributing to the intention/decision to pursue a Juris Doctor or not. Areen and Allum will also highlight findings from surveys conducted earlier this year in conjunction with PLANC, NAPLA, and PCAPLA to understand the issue from the perspective of pre-law advisors. Finally, they will lead a discussion with participants to understand how findings from these and other studies might inform legal education messaging and advising to potential law school students. Participants will leave with an “insider’s look” into Before the JD, including insights from their peers from NAPLA and PCAPLA. Participants will also have an opportunity to exchange tips and best practices with one another about how to help potential law school students fully and responsibly think through their educational and career alternatives at a time when American legal education is in a state of contraction.
      • Panelists: Jeff Allum, Project Director, Before the JD, Association of American Law Schools; Judy Areen, Executive Director, Association of American Law Schools
    • Preparing Your Students for a 21st Century Legal Career – Weems Auditorium (Room 1078)
      • While many of your students will graduate from law school and take “traditional” legal jobs, the face of the legal hiring market is changing rapidly, and an increasing number of graduates enter legal careers not even imagined a generation ago. What does the legal landscape look like now? What are the jobs of the future? How do I advise students on how to prepare to be a lawyer in the 21st Century? Three panelists, all with extensive law school career services backgrounds, will explore these questions, present a data informed and anecdotal picture of the present status of entry level hiring, discuss careers on the rise as current students enter the workforce, and offer best practices and resources you can use with your students to remain informed about the legal job market.
      • Panelists: Jeff Becherer, Assoc. Dean for Admissions and Professional Development, New York Law School; Karen Reagan Britton, Director of Admissions, University of South Carolina School of Law; Lorri Olan, Assoc. Director of Career and Professional Development and Pre-Law Advising Coordinator, Washington and Lee University
  • Lunch hosted by University of Mississippi Law School, 11:45 – 1:15 – Atrium
    • Welcome by Dean Susan Duncan
    • LSAC Update
  • Breakout Session #4: 1:30 – 2:30 pm
    • Law School Fairs: How To and Do We Need To? What’s Next? – Moot Court Room (Room 2035)
      • A pre-law advisor and two admissions professionals will discuss the efficacy of law school fairs as a way to reach pre-law students.  Results of a survey about law school fairs will be shared, as well as perspectives about how to make fairs worthwhile for admissions professionals, pre-law advisors, and, of course, students.  Panelists will also present potential alternatives to the law school fair model.
      • Panelists: Alicia Cramer, Asst. Dean of Admissions, South Texas College of Law Houston; Nathan Neely, Director of Global and Graduate Programs, University of Houston Law Center; Tyler Roberts, Director of Pre-Law Advising, Arts and Sciences Student Services, University of Alabama
    • Advising at the Intersections of Identity: Inclusion v. Exclusion – Weems Auditorium (Room 1078)
      • Each of us exists at the intersections of multiple identities. Some identities afford us privileges, while others marginalize. Often times, pre-law students of color struggle to fully capture and effectively communicate their identities throughout the application process. Despite great interest in the legal profession by students of color, statistics show that a vast majority are unable to enter the profession. Through this session, you will examine the challenges of advising students across multiple identities and learn how to interrupt any bias to leave you feeling empowered to effectively advise. You will also learn how to develop relationships with these students and the importance of establishing pipeline programs focused on them. Objectives: Pre-Law Advisors will develop strategies: to build effective pipeline programs; to develop relationships with and advise diverse students; to assist students with excelling in the law school application process.
      • Panelists: Eric Claville, Professor and Pre-Law Advisor, Hampton University; Cheryl Jester-George, Sr. Director of Admissions, Georgia State University College of Law; Jino P. Ray, Director of Admissions, Howard University School of Law
  • Travel: Leave law school by 2:45 on the Rolling Cocktail Party; arrive back at hotel by 4:15
  • Law School and Vendor Social at the Madison Hotel Ballroom, 4:30 – 6:00 pm
    • Games, Door prizes, and Elvis!
  • Free Time:  Enjoy your night out in Memphis!


Friday, September 15 – University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Bowen School of Law

  • Travel: Buses leave University of Memphis Loading Zone at 8:00 am; breakfast provided on bus
  • Tour: 10:00 – 10:15 am
  • Breakout Session #5: 10:30 – 11:30 am
    • Advising Students About the Financial Aspects of Law School – Classroom 323
      • This presentation will review the results of a dynamic net tuition model (tuition less scholarship) that distributes entering students in fall 2010 through fall 2014 into six LSAT categories (165+, 160-164, 155-159, 150-154, 145-159 and <145) with six corresponding net tuition categories ($0-10K, $10K-20K, $20K-30K, $30K-40K, $40K-50K, $50-60). The model shows that average net tuition has increased for those at the high LSAT and low LSAT ranges while net tuition has decreased for those in the middle LSAT ranges. Moreover, reflecting the changing pool of applicants, all LSAT categories have seen the average rank of law school attended improve over this period. Regardless where students find themselves, law school is an important investment. How can you help your students make more informed decisions on financing this most important investment. Learn about the practical tools and resources AccessLex has available to help law schools help students make the best financial decisions so that they can be financially well grounded when they leave law school.
      • Panelists: Jerry Organ, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law; Jennifer Schott, Director of Education Services, AccessLex Institute
    • Tough Calls: Advising Students Through Difficult Application Situations and Admissions Statuses – Friday Courtroom (Room 114)
      • This panel discussion will enable pre-law advisors to better help students navigate difficult application situations and admissions decisions. Admissions deans will explain how character and fitness questions are used in the application process and the best way for students to disclose less than favorable information. Other admissions deans will speak about the various summer statuses; will expound how the waitlist, holds, and double-deposits are used at their schools; and will offer recommendations for students who are in those situations. A pre-law advisor will elaborate about how she has disseminated information to her students during the summer months and has helped them navigate admissions uncertainty.
      • Panelists: Jenny Branson, Asst. Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Baylor Law School; Jessica Fonseca-Nader, Asst. Dean for Enrollment and Scholarships, St. Thomas University School of Law; Michelle Heck, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, University of Missouri School of Law; Amanda Moore, Graduate School Programs Coordinator, Hendrix College; Rhianna Shabsin, Sr. Asst. Dean for Admission, William and Mary Law School
  • Plenary Session: 11:40 am – 12:30 pm
    • Alternative Admissions Programs – Friday Courtroom (Room 114)
      • University of Arizona Law was the first to accept the GRE as an alternative test for law school admission, and Harvard Law will begin doing the same for their 2018 incoming class. Since Harvard’s announcement, several other law schools announced accepting GRE scores in lieu of the LSAT. The GRE is quickly becoming a feature of the law admissions process. Come learn more about why these law schools think the GRE is part of “What’s Next” in the law school admissions landscape and how an alternative test path can increase opportunity and access for applicants. We will dispel some of the myths surrounding using the GRE and talk about how you can counsel students regarding their best testing option.
      • Panelists: Cary L. Cluck, Asst. Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid, University of Arizona Law School; Thomas Robinson, Director of J.D. Admissions, Harvard Law School
  • Welcome by Dean John DiPippa: 12:30 – 12:45 pm
  • Working Lunch hosted by University of Arkansas, Little Rock Bowen School of Law
  • APLA Business Meetings, 1:00 – 1:45 pm
    • SAPLA – Classroom 323
    • SWAPLA – Classroom 305
  • Travel: Leave law school by 2:00 pm on the Rolling Cocktail Party, bus will stop by Memphis airport around 4:30 before returning to hotel

Conference ends! Safe travels!


Saturday, September 16 – PLANC Board Meeting