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First Annual UCLI PreLaw Symposium

By June 1, 2022News

At the University of Utah’s SJ Quinney College of Law 61 undergraduate students and many attorneys gathered to gain resources and share their knowledge. According to data collected at registration, many identities were represented at this event. 56% identified as female, 37% identified as male, and 7% identified as genderqueer, gender fluid, or demigender. In terms of race and ethnicity, 36% identified as Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin, with other racial identities depicted in the pie chart below. 73% of the attendees identified as straight, with 27% identifying as LGBTQ+. 13% of the students identified as having a disability or chronic condition. 36% of registrants identified as first-generation college graduates. We were so pleased to see the diverse opinions, worldviews, and identities of everyone represented at the symposium.

At 7am students and attorneys began to arrive, they were greeted by a registration table and a raffle to win LSAT scholarships. The students walked around to tables with representatives from Kaplan, BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law school, and The University of Utah. They had the opportunity to have their headshots taken by a professional photographer. Breakfast was provided and students loaded up plates, ate and talked. UCLI’s Geidy Achecar welcomed all to the event and delivered a wonderful message on why this event exists and how it will help the students overcome barriers. Kristen Olsen then emphasized that law school is possible and that the legal field needs people who will represent more fully the demographics of Utah. Then Dean Reyes Aguilar introduced the students to the SJ Quinney College of Law and talked about the importance of making informed decisions (rewatch & confirm that this was his main point).

The next event was highly applicable for undergraduates looking to law school. UCLI’s Jon Wayas and Melinda Bown moderated a discussion on preparing for law school with panelists Reyes Aguilar the dean of admissions from the U and Andrea Fitzgerald the dean of admissions from BYU. Each  gave very practical advice about how to critically look at law schools and make that big decision. They also spoke about what students can do now to prepare, tips like focus on getting good grades and also taking classes that will prepare you for the rigors of law school. 

The next panel was moderated by Grace Acosta, a highly accomplished lawyer as well as adjunct professor at the U. The panel was composed of the Assistant deans of student affairs Bryan Hamblin from BYU and Bryan Burton from the U, as well as Chandler a 3L at BYU, Madison Van Fleet 2L at BYU , Jessica Arthurs a 2L at the U. The advisors discussed their role and provided tips to students about things to do or avoid. The students told stories about successes and difficulties in their journeys and about what things have helped them. Participants asked many questions and as a result there was a rich discussion.  

Then lunch was brought by BYU and students and attorneys mingled. Then Sam Abla gave the keynote address and inspired all who attended with his story and encouraged everyone that “If I can do it so can you”. He talked about hard work and ways to combat discrimiation. 

After lunch Associate Dean and professor Louisa Heiny led  a mock law class. Students got to participate as she asked difficult questions and encouraged student thinking. Professor Heiny taught students to analyze and apply a supreme court ruling. After the class had ended students followed Professor Heiny out into the hallway and continued to ask further questions about the case and topics discussed. 

The next panel was an inspiring group of attorneys who discussed career options and what life is like in the law. It included Melina Shiradli who moderated, Engels Tejeda from Holland and Hart, Andrea T. Martinez the US Attorney for the District of Utah, Rebecca Ryan Director of Litigation for eBay, Inc, Olga Taylor of Gardner and Taylor, and Amy Morgan from Utah Legal Services. They each talked about their journey to get them where they are. Specific questions were answered and a very transparent conversation about salary was conducted. The students had many more questions and were delighted that many of these panelists stayed to talk and network with them.

Finally an introduction to the UCLI mentoring program was given by Melinda Bowen and Abby Dizon-Maughan. They briefly talked about the value of mentoring and how UCLI can be a resource for students. 

Awards were given and people were thanked for their contributions and hard work on the event. The LSAT scholarship giveaways had been going on all day but concluded and students were given instructions on how to claim prizes. Networking continued on with attorneys and the UCLI team. 


Video recordings of all the sessions can be found here:



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