UTPA begins summer Law School Preparation Institute
Posted: 07/25/2001
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Students interested in law careers now have the opportunity to prepare for entrance into law school through the new summer Law School Preparation Institute (LSPI) at The University of Texas-Pan American.

Nineteen UTPA juniors and seniors from various majors are now participating in the Institute, which runs from July 19 through Aug. 17. The program meets weekdays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday mornings.

Shelli Soto, assistant dean of admissions at UT Law School, recently discussed with UTPA Law School Preparation Institute students various law school application and admissions procedures.

The overall goal of the new Institute is to assist UTPA students in becoming more attractive law school candidates, said Dr. Jerry Polinard, UTPA pre-law advisor and LSPI coordinator.

"I think the program will be successful, not just in enhancing the ability of UTPA students to pursue legal careers, but also, and perhaps as importantly, in enhancing their intellectual abilities," Polinard said.

Polinard said LSPI is only the second program of its kind in The University of Texas System. The University of Texas-El Paso implemented LSPI in 1998 and has had more than three-fourths of its graduates accepted into law school.

LSPI is a strategy suggested by the UT System Law School Partnership Task Force (LSPTF) to increase the number of minority students applying to law school in general and The University of Texas Law School in particular following the Hopwood vs. Texas decision. The University of Texas-Brownsville and The University of Texas-San Antonio are expected to develop similar programs next year.

Through LSPI, students will be prepared for the LSAT; introduced to legal research and writing; discuss the admissions process into law school; assisted in selecting and applying to law schools; develop analytical and critical reading and writing skills; and review selected law cases to develop their analytical and argumentative skills.

"Overall, we hope to improve the chances of UTPA pre-law students accepted into law school, enhance their intellectual skills so they will do well in law school and make them better students overall," Polinard said. "We hope they become better thinkers and better writers."

Three UTPA faculty members - Polinard, Dr. James Wenzel and Professor Nigel Cohen - who have extensive experience in pre-law advising and criminal justice, conduct the Institute. Also assisting are several UT School of Law personnel who teach mini-courses in preparing for a law education.

Students participating in LSPI are confident it will improve their chances of getting into law school.

"It (LSPI) is giving us the opportunity to see what it takes to get into law school," said Deborah Salazar, senior communications major. "A lot of us don't understand the full extent of what it takes to get into law school."

UTPA juniors and seniors from all majors are eligible for the program and selected based on their academic qualifications (at least a 2.75 grade point average). Students in the program will receive a $1,000 stipend and six hours of credit in a political science course. All books and materials are provided to participants.

For more information, contact Polinard at the Department of Political Science, 381-3341.