With August on the horizon and the incoming students preparing to move in, law school admissions officers continue to refine their recruitment plans for the coming year. As we discussed in last week’s blog post, the foundational bedrock of each year’s recruitment calendar is the LSAC Forums. LSAC tends to schedule those events far in advance due to the logistics of scheduling large gatherings and—maybe more importantly—not so much to get their event on the books, but to ensure that another event doesn’t take their place at their preferred location and on their preferred date. Even though they only have the 2023–24 calendar published on their website, you can be sure that LSAC is already thinking ahead to next year’s events! But after the Forum schedule is published, we begin to see individual college and city law fairs pop up. This is because many pre-law advisers want to schedule their events in conjunction with the Forums so as to maximize the attendance from law school reps. If the Forums are the planets, the local law fairs are the moons stuck in gravitational orbit. To use the parlance of our times, they’re sliding into the Forums’ DM’s and they don’t mind being thirsty about it. And we’ll assume we used all of those phrases correctly….
So let’s take a few minutes today to talk about these events, how to find out about them, and how you can take advantage of law fairs to do your research and get a leg up in the admissions process.
In a digital world, law fairs (and college fairs, and career fairs, etc.) are a bit of a callback to an analog age. Before students could do copious research about schools via the internet, one of the few ways they could find out more information about schools was by talking with school reps at these kinds of events. Similarly for admissions, one of the few ways to actively recruit students in the Stone Age was to go out there and find them. Obviously, we now live in a world where students can find plenty of information on the internet. But much like how there’s a difference in the shopping experience at a brick-and-mortar book store or record store versus Amazon, students can have a more personalized experience at a law fair by talking with a real human being. Similarly, admissions officers now have all kinds of tools at their disposal via LSAC that allow them to conduct precisely targeted email campaigns to students, but it’s not quite the same as actually shaking a student’s hand and telling them a bit more about your school and your admissions procedures. There tends to be a joke in higher ed administration that schools always do what they always do because it’s what they’ve always done. Admittedly, it’s not a funny joke, but higher ed administrators are a dry bunch. The point is—change only happens when necessary. In the case of in-person recruitment, COVID shutdowns opened up new waves of digital law fairs, podcasts, and remote information sessions, some of which continue onward to this day. The consensus from students, pre-law advisers, and law school admissions officers was overwhelmingly that remote offerings are wonderful, they certainly got us through a challenging time, but that they weren’t a replacement for the real thing. They were the chips and salsa that we ordered for the table while waiting for our main course to arrive, if we’re all okay with comparing a global pandemic to a generic foodstuff.
But just because the events are back doesn’t mean that all schools will recruit students in the same ways. Law fairs can be expensive to attend—there are registration fees, transportation, hotels, and lost efficiency due to time out of the office. A school can justify the costs to their budget office as long as they have reason to believe that either they will meet a critical mass of applicants (i.e., a high raw number of students) at this event or there will be a critical mass of competitive applicants (i.e., the students have high raw numbers). Those targets can obviously be a bit subjective. In the case of the former, an AdComm may expect to see more students at a law fair located in their geographic market than on the other side of the country. For the latter, the LSAT and GPA stats that can be competitive for a T50 school typically aren’t that strong for a T14. Schools typically keep lots of stats about past applicants, including their undergrad school and hometown. LSAC also provides schools with lots of data, including the undergrad schools that produce the most law school applicants, as well as the LSAT/GPA medians for applicants for those undergrad schools. AdComms can then use this information to determine what events would be worthwhile to attend.
Some law school admissions offices look at their information and data from LSAC and decide that there really aren’t a ton of events that make sense for them. Instead, it may be better to do more targeted in-person recruitment. This is when you may see an AdComm:
- Conduct an individual information session at a college that may have a lot of good prospects.
- Offer interviews in a market that tends to be one of the main pipelines for future students to their school.
- Team up with a group of similar law schools to do joint information sessions, networking receptions, and/or admission panels.
So now that you know what’s out there, how can you know when and where they’re happening? The most comprehensive website to track law fairs is LSAC’s calendar of events. We already see a number of events scheduled for September through November and more will be added in the coming weeks. However, LSAC’s site just includes fairs—it doesn’t include the individual visits an AdComm may schedule at a specific undergrad school. To track those kinds of events, it’s best to check out each law school’s website. Most will have a page—usually tucked into the Admissions section of the website—that discusses both how to visit the school and where the school will be for recruitment events. Schools like Notre Dame and Michigan already have calendars up. Others like Harvard and Iowa note that they’ll be adding events in the weeks to come. Berkeley has their calendar up but—more importantly—has last year’s schedule available in the drop-down menus at the bottom of their page. You can get a sense of where they may be this year by where they were last year.
Finally, you may want to consider making yourself searchable through LSAC’s Candidate Referral Service (CRS). By opting in to CRS, you allow AdComms to search for you through LSAC’s database using certain statistical and demographic parameters. The AdComms can then send you marketing emails to tell you more about their schools. Yes, there’s a downside—spam messages. No one is here to argue with that (but as a pro tip—you can always create a new email account just for your law school apps so that way you don’t have to worry about these kinds of messages getting in the way of your normal emails)! However, you also leave yourself open to the positives. This includes invitations to law fairs and recruitment events. Let’s say I’m an AdComm planning my recruitment travel. My budget office has been on my back recently about our recruitment expenses, so I want to do all I can to encourage attendance at the law fairs that we are going to attend. Through CRS, I can:
- Search for all law school candidates who attend the school where a law fair is happening.
- Conduct a further search for all candidates who live within a certain geographic radius of the law fair’s location.
- Take things to the max and further refine that “macro” search to find more targeted candidates. Maybe I’d like to send a message to students at the school where the law fair is happening but only if they have a certain LSAT/GPA combo or only if they’re originally from the state where my law school is located.
I’ve personally had the experience where students at law fairs have told me that they didn’t hear about the event from their pre-law adviser or club, nor did they see any signs around campus notifying of the event. They heard about it from an email that my office sent them! So check out your CRS settings before the recruitment season really swings into action. You may be surprised to find what arrives in your inbox! And hopefully this is the first step towards using the law fairs to your admissions advantage.