Getting Into University of Miami School of Law — Advice from UM’s Director of Student Recruitment

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Therese Lambert, Director of Student Recruitment at University of Miami School of Law


As the Director of Student Recruitment, what are your day-to-day responsibilities?


The Recruitment Office works hand-in-hand with the Office of Admissions.  We communicate directly with prospective and admitted students about why Miami Law is an excellent institution and why our location on the main campus in close proximity to the City of Miami is exciting and advantageous.  We accommodate daily visitors with  tours and class attendance, sponsor open houses and online chats, and participate in 70+ law fairs or related recruiting programs throughout the country.

What do you consider the most significant parts of an application, the parts which applicants should prepare the most carefully?


I think it is a mistake to think one part of the application is more important than another.  The reality is that all aspects are important even while one aspect might be wise to highlight based on the applicant’s strengths or weaknesses.


Is there anything you frequently see on an application that you hope to never see again?


Personal statements can make a difference if an applicant is in the gray zone and wasting the opportunity to advocate for oneself is a statement in itself.  Personal statements which are preachy, contrived or long-winded are not going to help the applicant.  In a concise manner, applicants should tell us their story; reflect that they’re going to be engaged, diligent students and that they will contribute to the class/student body.  We want students who are going to be proactive and maximize opportunities, not sit back and wait for something to happen. Rehashing the resume is not effective but choosing salient points, highlighting strengths and showing that they will hit the ground running makes a statement more powerful. Keeping the statement short is recommended (between 2-3 pages). Be sure it is well written, grammatically correct, etc.


What common pitfalls should applicants be careful to avoid? 


Don’t procrastinate. Applicants should give themselves plenty of lead time to prepare and sit for the LSAT and to complete the application. If applicants build contingencies into their game plan – e.g., if processing takes longer than expected or if they decide to retake the LSAT – it will lessen negative results for admission or scholarship consideration.  Applicants should realize that their recommenders and LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service all take time as well.


Are there any myths about the application process which you would like to dispel?


You don’t need to have an exceptional experience to be an applicant who is inspired.


What advice would you give to an applicant with below-average test scores but significant work experience?


The LSAT is certainly not always the pivotal factor in the review process but it cannot be ignored completely.  If applicants have a low LSAT score(s), they should be sure to highlight their many other skills and attributes so that the LSAT as a predictor becomes less compelling. Unfortunately, there is no magic advice I can give other than to submit a solid, well constructed application packet.


Do you frequently have to turn away applicants whom you wish you could admit?  If so, what could those applicants do to be admitted?


Sometimes it is hard to deny applicants with GPAs and/or LSAT scores that are not as strong as other applicants but who appear likely to contribute in other ways.  The reality is that there are many more applicants than spots available so we must make choices.  I repeat the advice given elsewhere: spend time in organizing your application so that you submit a solid, well constructed packet.


How much faith do you have in the ability of the LSAT to predict success in law school?


It is a self-propelling process.  Both applicants and schools give too much weight to LSAT scores.  Rankings are often driven and compounded by how high the median LSAT score is.  This is not an issue that is owned solely by law schools.  I don’t have a good answer as this is a multifaceted and difficult topic.


What do you look for in a recommendation letter?


The more a recommender knows about the candidate, the more relevant and genuine the LOR will be. If possible, candidates should meet with the recommenders, give them their resume and discuss their academic record and achievements. Recommenders should be given plenty of advance notice –LORs written in haste may not be as strong as desired.  Recommenders should confirm what the applicants are saying about themselves:  I am a bright, hard working individual who will be intellectually engaged and fun to teach.


While LOR’s may not always be pivotal in the review process, they can be very important, particularly for applicants in the “gray zone”.  Applicants should be careful in determining who to ask. When they approach their preferred recommenders, they shouldn’t presume anything. Applicants should ask the recommender if they feel comfortable writing them a strong letter of recommendation. If a recommender hesitates, it gives the applicant an indication of his/her tepid enthusiasm.


If possible, we prefer to see LORs from professors who can assess the applicant’s academic work, overall skills, discipline, and potential to succeed in the rigorous environment of law school.  If applicants have been out of school for a number of years and are unable to obtain recommendations from former professors, they may substitute LORs from employers or other persons with whom they have worked closely.  If candidates plan to take a year or two off prior to entering law school, they could alert  recommenders prior to graduating of their intention and send them an occasional email to keep them informed of what they’re doing.

Suppose an applicant has little or no experience relevant to your program, but has significant experience in other fields. What can that applicant do to distinguish himself or herself in your eyes as a good candidate for your program?

The good thing about law school is there are so many areas of study that are exciting and relevant that it would be rare for someone to have only one interest that remains intact throughout law school and into practice.  Having a notion of what he/she would be interested in is fine, but unless a candidate has a devoted area of study or work experience in a particular area, it makes sense to remain open-minded.  The skills needed in law school are strong analytical and logical reasoning skills, critical thinking, reading comprehension and writing and communication abilities.  Experience in other fields often utilize these same skills; therefore applicants from unrelated experiences should not undermine their abilities.