UTPA Report: Law School Preparation Institute

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POSTED: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 1:49pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 7:08am

Aspiring attorneys at The University of Texas-Pan American know there's only one place to go to make sure they are ready for law school, the Law School Preparation Institute.

Jennifer Berghom explains more about this summer program in this report.

Stephanie Rodriguez is a student at The University of Texas-Pan American and plans to become a lawyer some day. To make sure she is ready for the challenges of law school, Rodriguez enrolled in UTPA's Law School Preparation Institute, commonly called the L-S-P-I or LSPI, "I decided to enroll in LSPI because I heard that it was an extremely rigorous course, I heard that it was the best course to take to prepare me for law school."

Stephanie Rodriguez, UTPA student, "So far this course has really opened my eyes, given me a little insight on what law school actually is."

Rodriguez is one of about 20 students who are taking the summer course, which is now in its 14th year at UTPA.

The LSPI is one of UTPA's most rigorous programs and one of the most competitive to get into. Only 20 students are chosen from scores of applicants who have at least a 3.0 grade point average and completed at least 45 hours of coursework.

Students in the LSPI undergo rigorous training throughout the six-week program to prepare them for law school, or even graduate school if some students decide a career in law isn't for them.

Jerry Polinard, UTPA professor, "So we’re focusing on the analytical skills, the reading, writing, speaking and most importantly thinking, critical thinking, that are going to be useful to them if they’re in law school, if they’re in graduate school, if they’re in a professional school."

Rodriguez says she can attest to how challenging the LSPI can be, "It was a little intimidating in the beginning and it was so much work that I didn’t know if I could handle it, but now I believe we’re about the second week, going in to the third week and I have a lot more confidence now in myself and my capabilities."

UTPA started the institute in 2001 to ensure that more minority students are admitted into law school. In the past 14 years, the university has had overwhelming success, with more than 90 percent of its students who apply to law school getting accepted by at least one institution. And of that 90 percent, Jerry Polinard, UTPA's professor of political science, says, almost all complete their degrees, pass the bar exam and return to the Rio Grande Valley to practice law.

In addition to taking difficult classes, the students also hear from officials from various law schools who explain how the admission process works and what they need to do to prepare themselves for this next chapter in their academic lives.

Beth Youngdale, The University of Texas School of Law, "It gives them exposure to skills that will serve them well wherever they’re in law school... just the exposure to hearing or seeing a real law school class from when the professors comes to talk to them, this is useful to know what’s going to happen when they get to law school.

I'm Jennifer Berghom reporting for UTPA and News Center 23.

UTPA covers almost all the expenses for students in the Law School Preparation institute, including the fee to take the Law School Admissions Test.

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