In conjunction with the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU and the S.J. Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah, UCLI hosted its second pre-law symposium for students from communities which have been historically underrepresented in Utah’s legal profession. The 52 students who attended the event, held on-site at BYU’s Law School, ranged from undergraduates to returning students.
The symposium helped to close the gap between a legal education and the current place of any given student. This was in part achieved through seven scholarships for an LSAT prep course and/or LSAT fee waiver presented byUCLI. These scholarships were made possible through the generous donations of BYU Law School, Kaplan Test Prep, Utah State Bar and ACE Test Prep, and will aid seven future law school applicants in achieving their goals. One recipient, August Molina Pastora, said this scholarship will ease the burden of saving money for the LSAT and allow them to focus on other important aspects of their life as well as their application to law school. Another recipient, Sheri Edwards, is a returning student who, after a career in marketing, decided to follow her dreams and pursue law. About this scholarship she said, “I am a mom, I work full time, and I have three children so a scholarship for a test prep course is incredible. It will save hundreds for my family budget.” We are grateful for those who made this scholarship possible and look forward to August, Sheri, and people like them, to enter Utah’s legal field. The diverse perspectives and talents of all students and attorneys is what makes a robust and successful legal community. Check out what this scholarship meant to the other recipients on our Instagram.
Reflective of the progress Utah has made, with milestones and checkpoints yet to come, the attendees of the symposium represented various identities. We are excited that attendees represented the future of the Utah legal field. Approximate results from the registration survey show that 4% of participants identified as genderqueer or demigender. 11% identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or pansexual. 39% identified as Hispanic or Latine. 55% identified as something other than non-Hispanic white – including 6% Asian, 10% Black, 6% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 6% American Indian or Alaskan Native, and 6% of respondents identifying as two or more races. Additionally, nearly 8% responded as having a disability. Perhaps most notably, 49% of participants were first-generation college students or graduates.
Emphasizing the ability and the necessity of having first-generation college students, the keynote speaker Aida Neimarlija shared her experience as a twice refugee and first-generation student. She did not initially consider law school as an option. It wasn’t until after her undergraduate degree that a mentor encouraged her to apply based on her apparent talent for diligence and detail. This led her to an incredible career in the legal industry and she is currently the legal counsel for Larry H. Miller Real Estate. Although Aida’s first intentions were to use a law degree to work in human rights, she shared how a legal career lent itself to change and growth. With a law degree, she was able to try out different things and find what she loved. She shared that the flexibility of a legal career would allow students to find new challenges and new adventures.
Later on, four current law students from both of Utah’s law schools participated in a panel called, “A Day in the Life of a Law Student.” They shared similar feelings about the fulfillment they have found in law school paired with the difficulty of making decisions about priorities. Attendees listened to valuable, first-hand perspectives of how both of Utah’s law schools create great environments for challenge, learning, and growth.
After hearing first-hand experiences of law school, attendees were then given the opportunity to experience it for themselves. Professor Carolina Nuñez of the J. Reuben Clark Law School led a mock class. Attendees were given a case before the symposium and came prepared to work through it using the socratic method to better understand the case and the legal precedent. Attendees participated in the discussion, challenged each other’s assumptions, and experienced what a law school class might look like. The energy in the room elevated quickly as attendees gained confidence in their ability to learn in this way.
Participants felt empowered as they made their way to the final session of the day. Kris Tina Karlston, the BYU pre-law advisor, gave an informative workshop on personal statements. Participants learned the ins and outs of personal statements. Most importantly, they were reaffirmed that law schools are looking for applicants that will succeed, and all students can succeed in law school if that is their desire.
UCLI expresses gratitude to all those who participated in creating this educational and inspirational experience for students. We express special gratitude to the wonderful sponsors who made this event possible: Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney School of Law, SF Firm, the Litigation Section of the Utah State Bar, Maschoff Brennan, Kirton McConkie, and the Utah State Bar Commission. Thanks to these sponsors, each attendee left with resources and confidence to further pursue their legal education. As one participant shared, “Thank you for putting on that event, it was so helpful to hear from such great deans, law students, and lawyers. It really helped me to widen my perspectives and to get even more excited about applying for law school!” We are grateful for the participation of these incredible students and wish them well in their journeys to law school.
Thank You to Our Sponsors!