Law Students

University of Houston Pre-Law Pipeline Program Remains Strong
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Summary: Entering its fourth year, the pre-law pipeline program at the University of Houston is bigger than ever and receiving accolades as it grows.

Not everyone knows what they want to do first thing out of high school and once they have it figured out, the road to their career choice may not always be straightforward. The University of Houston Law Center realized this rang especially true for first-generation, low-income and underrepresented minority students so they began the Pre-Law Pipeline Program four years ago.

  
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The program is an eight-week course for minority, low-income and first-generation students wanting to explore a legal career. By the end, the students will know if the law is a good fit for them and if so, they will have received specific help towards boosting their law school applications and Law School Admission Test scores.

One such participant was Daniel Henry, who originally thought he was going to be an engineer, according to Law.com. He began to struggle in his classes, realizing that he did not want to be an engineer for the rest of his life. An African-American studies course helped him realize that he would rather be fighting for justice and helping the black community. The problem was that Henry had no idea how to get to a place where he could do that.

He was instructed to enroll in the innovative program at the University of Houston Law Center. He said, “I just went to learn about the legal field, and I came out knowing fighting for justice as an attorney was my purpose.”

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Now in its fourth year, the diversity program has helped 86 students get on the right path for their future careers. While many of the participants are still working on their undergraduate degrees, 18 that are done or nearly done have chosen to become lawyers. Of those 18, 11 are currently enrolled in a law school and seven have been accepted. Three of the students are enrolled at Houston and another two will start in the fall. Some of the other students of the course now pursuing legal careers have gone to Brooklyn Law School, Howard University School of Law, George Washington University Law School, Oklahoma City University School of Law, the University of Miami School of Law, and the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

Houston Law Dean Leonard Baynes, who created the program, emphasized that while they would love for the participants to end up at their law school, it is not the point of the program. “It’s our responsibility to the profession, to make sure it has a wide swath of people. The most important thing is that they go to law school. I don’t care where they want to go to law school – I just want them to pursue their dreams, and achieve their dreams,” Baynes said.



There are a few other law schools across the country that offer a similar program. Discoverlaw.org claims there are eight similar programs in Ohio, Maine, Wisconsin, Missouri, North Carolina, Alabama, California, and New York. The difference between the programs is that Houston’s program has received national recognition. INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine has recognized the program for the last two years with their Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.

Pre-Law Pipeline Program manager Kristen Guiseppi recruits heavily using social media and email campaigns. She said that 49 percent of the students are black, 34 percent are Hispanic. A majority of the students come from Texas with the rest coming from all over the United States.

During the eight week course, the students live on campus so they can fully get immerse in the law school scene. The program is split into two tracks. For the first track, students can get free tuition, room, and board and a $1,000 stipend. This track teaches the students about law school, requiring them to take law school courses from the professors and getting them networking with attorneys. The students also complete a three-week legal internship with a legal employer.

For the second track, which is open to undergraduate seniors, the program hones in on helping students prepare their law school applications. They work on resumes, personal statements or diversity statements, and then study for the LSAT for eight weeks. During this track, students pay $2,500 for tuition, materials and room and board. There are scholarships and financial aid for students that need it.

Henry finished the first track and immediately changed his major and got involved in community service with the African-American community center. He was eventually hired by them because he volunteered there so much. The next summer, Henry returned to complete the second track. He increased his LSAT score by 10 points, allowing him to be eligible for his top-choice law school, which he has been accepted to.

Guiseppi explained that the average LSAT improvement after the program is 11 points, although some students were able to increase their scores by up to 17 points. She said, “What that does for our students is it takes them from potentially an LSAT score where they may not even be accepted to law school, to a point where they now have different law school options and they are eligible for scholarships.”

Do you think more students need opportunities for these kinds of programs so they can better prepare for any graduate program? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about pre-law programs, read these articles:

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