Third annual law school fair today

For some, the mere mention of law school elicits a grimacing cringe from those who feel our country is already over-saturated with lawyers. But those who stigmatize law school graduates as aspiring ambulance chasers may be enlightened to know that many juris doctorate holders are employed as professors, business owners, politicians and an array of other professions.

Law has been taught as a profession in the United States since the 1700s and continues to grow in appeal to students who want a foothold in the competitive job market. Due to the popularity of law school as a choice for furthering education, law school fairs pop up around the country each year so institutions can showcase what they have to offer in hopes of luring students to their campuses.

That is what will be happening today in Smith Memorial Student Union’s ballroom. More than 30 law schools will be present from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to clear any clouds of confusion around aspects of pursuing law degrees and to offer general information about admissions processes, costs, financial aid and any other matters about which students have questions.

Although small in scale when compared with national events that are sponsored by the Law School Admission Council and held in major metro areas such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and the Bay Area, Portland State’s fair continues to grow as the region’s only exclusively law-oriented event. The University of Washington boasts the largest fair in the Northwest. On Nov. 1, it hosted more than 70 schools and drew roughly 300 interested students. However, last year Portland State had around 250 in attendance with only 32 schools.

Today’s exhibition, sponsored by the PSU Pre-Law Society, features schools from as far away as Maine and Vermont, and as local as Lewis & Clark College, Willamette University and the University of Oregon.

The fair will focus on dispute resolution, environmental and clinical training, health, intellectual property, international, trial advocacy and tax law. U.S. News and World Report magazine published an article in April that listed the top 10 schools for each of those divisions, and on hand today will be six schools that were nationally recognized as top-notch facilities.

Traditionally, schools in the East have generally focused on recruiting local students, but many are now looking elsewhere.

“There are some schools in the east that are now realizing there are students in the Pacific Northwest that can be attracted to their schools,” said Tim Garrison, professor of history at Portland State. “Students that don’t need to stay in the area have many opportunities available to them, but they really need to investigate potential schools first before committing to one.”

Garrison, who holds a juris doctorate and is the university’s pre-law adviser, recommends being prepared when coming to the fair by having a pen, some paper and questions for the representatives.

“One of the most beneficial aspects of law school is the networking that takes place when learning in the field,” said Kristi Harper, president of the Pre-Law Society. “That can be lost if a graduate moves to another city, which is why one should consider a school’s location as a place to also stay and work in after graduation.”

For those unable to attend today’s fair, there will be information packets from each institution available in the pre-law office.

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Good questions to ask:

What are the lowest acceptable LSAT scores?

What is the cost and are there scholarships available?

Which does the school value highest: a good GPA, letters of recommendation, internship experience or personal statements?

What is the job placement rate for graduating students?

How does the grading system work?

Is the school accredited by the American Bar Association?

Factors when determining a good school:

Size and background of the student body.

Location and size.

Strengths and interests of the faculty.

Range of its library collection.

Types of jobs available in the community.