New service provided for UI students interested in pre-law

By Mark Rivera

For the first time in 27 years, the approximately 3,000 students who plan to go into law have an area and an adviser all to themselves.

With the retirement of longtime LAS pre-law adviser Steve Shafer, a new pre-law advising service was created as part of the Campus Center for Advising and Academic Services (CCAAS), said Julian Parrott, assistant provost and director of the Center.

This service will cater to at least 3,000 University students who consider themselves to be pre-law, which is an increase from other years, Parrot said.

Pre-law advising used to be available through the College of LAS. But, since Shafer’s retirement, the idea of where pre-law should reside has changed.

“Pre-law is not under the purview of one particular college,” Parrott said. “We’ve taken the great tradition Dr. Shafer had and used it as a spring board to grow the (pre-law) program.”

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Shafer declined to comment about the new pre-law initiative in an interview this week.

“Since I am now formally retired from the pre-law advising process here, I feel it is out of place for me to comment any further on the transition,” he said.

However, Shafer sent an e-mail to LAS pre-law students dated Aug. 12 expressing his discontent with the new services. He said that with the lack of a pre-law graduate assistant, his replacement would have a difficult time accommodating all the students in the program.

He urged students to contact the Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs if they have any objections or issues with the new system.

With the program’s growth, pre-law advising has taken over additional space on the fifth floor of the Illini Union bookstore. This will make room for new student amenities, such as a career resource center with guide books and other materials.

Pre-law advising services have a great opportunity to expand, said Jamie Thomas, director of pre-law services.

The advising service is focused on collaboration between colleges, outreach to other advising departments, overhauling the pre-law Web site, and bringing innovative new programs to pre-law, she said.

In fact, for the first time ever, pre-law advising can be done with instant messaging.

However, what sets pre-law advising apart from other University services is not simply technological.

Unlike the University’s pre-med program, with pre-law, there is no defined core series of classes. Instead, law schools look for a series of skills, Parrott said.

“(Pre-law services) are there to guide students through the development process,” he said. “They function as a sounding board for students interested in pre-law.”

This is perfect for students like Brad Geegan, sophomore in LAS.

“I got info about pre-law freshman year, but didn’t do anything with it,” Geegan said. “I’d like to learn more (about pre-law), and it’s always going to be better with someone specializing.”

Paul Pless, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid for the College of Law, agreed.

“(Jamie Thomas) can give students who are thinking of going into law school a better idea of what they’re getting in to,” Pless said.

The fact that she has a law degree, has practiced as an attorney and was a University undergraduate allows for confidence in her advising skills, Pless said.

However, he noted that good advising is always easier with more resources.

“I hope the University gives (Thomas) the resources she needs,” he said.

Yet, pre-law faculty are very hopeful.

“The pre-law program is now freestanding” Parrott said. “This is the first stage in a significant investment with pre-law.”