UT needs another pre-law adviser – The Daily Texan

UT is the second-largest law school in the nation, according to Tatem Oldham, director of liberal arts career services. The University’s pre-law program is led by pre-law advisor Karintha Fenley who organizes law school events like the annual UT Law Fair.

The program is strong, sending a large number of UT students to law school. According to Oldham, about 3,200 UT students are currently pursuing pre-law studies, and the University has also many student-run pre-law organizations. However, despite the clear request, the University has only one pre-law adviser. The College of Liberal Arts should allocate funds to hire another full-time legal advisor for the Liberal Arts Career Services.

“Last year, about 1,000 students met with our pre-law counselor for an individual appointment,” Oldham said. “We also still have about 2,000 students on our pre-law (mailing list) and then we average about 50 pre-law events a year.”

Fenley’s limited number of appointments may make it difficult for lower-division undergraduates to receive pre-law counseling.

“It’s hard to schedule a meeting…there wasn’t much availability,” said Marianne Nader, international relations and global studies manager and president of Minority Women Pursuing Law. “She tends to book very quickly.”

Counseling is particularly important at the start of an academic career when students are considering changing careers or exploring other options.

For example, pre-law counseling helped sophomore psychology student Niki Dashtban determine if law school was the right option for her.

“Initially, I was a pre-med student and it didn’t really work for me. I didn’t like science at all, so I was considering pre-law,” Dashtban said. “I spoke to (Fenley) and she was a huge help because I literally didn’t know anything about pre-law.”

The work Fenley does at UT is extremely important, but the low counselor-to-student ratio means that not every student who wants one-on-one help can get it.

Currently there are two senior health professions coaches manage the large number of pre-med students. UT pre-law students also deserve this level of academic coaching. This year, LACS hired a part-time graduate student to help Fenley with her huge workload. However, this graduate student will not advise students individually, but will only help in case of overflow.

Ann Huff Stevens, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, described COLA’s pursuit to improve its career support services offered.

“Over the past few years, COLA has received significant additional funding for career support from the provost’s office and donors,” Stevens said. “We continue to assess the greatest specific needs and have made supporting the careers of liberal arts students a high priority in our ongoing fundraising campaign.”

As COLA strives to increase career support capabilities, the college must focus specifically on the needs of its pre-law students. As Oldham shared, 70% of UT’s pre-law population is made up of liberal arts majors. COLA students need more support in their pre-law endeavours.

“I would love to have another full-time pre-law adviser…and we’re looking at additional funding opportunities for that, trying to find money in the budget for that,” Oldham said. “It’s something we’re working on, but not something we’ve secured yet.”

There is clearly a huge number of UT students who are passionate about pursuing law. However, without LACS proving that it can permanently fund another pre-law counselor, UT’s pre-law program cannot hire another full-time counselor. Students deserve to have their passions met with an equally passionate amount of academic guidance. COLA must invest in its law students.

Muthukrishnan is a freshman government student from Los Gatos, California.

Jon J. Epps