This is the fourth installment of our 224 part series, Better Know A Dean. Today we posted our interview with Michelle Adorno, Assistant Dean for Admissions at UFlorida Law — The Fightin’ UFlorida Law’s!
Prior to joining UF Law, Dean Adorno served as the Director of Admissions at New York University School of Law from 1998-2009. She received a B.A. in Spanish Linguistics from Cornell University (1986) and a J.D. from Cornell Law School (1989). After graduating from Law School, she joined the New York offices of Kelley, Drye and Warren where she worked as a litigation associate. From 1994-1998, she served as the Assistant Director of Admissions and later the Director of Recruitment, at St. John’s University School of Law in New York. She has served on the Law School Admissions Council’s (LSAC) Misconduct and Irregularities in the Admissions Process Subcommittee, the LSAC Diversity Initiatives Committee and also served as the Chair of the AALS Section on Pre-Legal Education and Admission to Law School.
AD: It’s a question that’s on everyone’s mind, so we might as well deal with the 900 lb. gorilla in the room: Will Tim Tebow win a second Heisman Trophy this year?
MA: Good question – we sure hope he does! We are all very proud of our football team and it’s really exciting to be part of a community that has such strong school spirit.
AD: You recently came to UF Law from NYU School of Law. How do you find the schools similar and what differences, if anything, do notice?
MA: The two schools are different in several ways that make each school unique and attractive to applicants: location in a large city versus a smaller (more suburban) city; large urban campus versus very large sprawling traditional campus; private versus public institution and therefore corresponding in-state versus out-of-state tuition rates. As for similarities, both law schools are fully integrated into vibrant universities, yet there is a “community” feeling within each law school where everyone knows one another; both are national law schools recognized across the country for specific strengths in certain areas of law and actually, both are renowned for their strength in Taxation.
AD: In which state(s) and/or geographic region do most of UF Law’s graduates end up practicing?
MA: Most practice in Florida, but we have strong alumni representation throughout the country, and even internationally. The top areas for our graduates outside Florida are Atlanta, New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and the northwestern states.
AD: Classrooms with people of diverse backgrounds and experiences often lead to a richer learning environment, but applications to law school among minorities who are traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession have been consistently down over the past several years. Despite the smaller applicant pool, UF has seen minorities in its 1L class increase slightly from 23% in 2005 to 24% in the 2008-09 admissions cycle. What is UF currently doing to successfully promote diversity at the law school, and in what areas does it think it can still improve?
MA: At UF Law we believe that legal education is enhanced in a student body composed of people with different backgrounds who contribute a variety of viewpoints to enrich the educational experience. The College of Law therefore seeks to admit and enroll students who collectively bring a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, interests and perspectives. We convey this in our application materials and on our Web site. We recruit in cities and at undergraduate institutions where there are large concentrations of minority students. We also have active minority student organizations on campus that help new minority students feel welcome on campus, and I think that overall, applicants and admitted students understand that diversity is an important part of the law school experience at UF Law. Given that it is such an integral part of the law school experience, we continue to try to improve our diversity – and ultimately that of the legal profession – each year.
AD: What strides is UF currently making to improve diversity among its faculty?
MA: We value diversity in our faculty as highly as we do in our student body. It is one of the important factors we take into consideration when conducting faculty searches.
AD: UF offers 6 separate “centers” and 8 “clinics.” Can you explain how your centers differ from your clinics?
MA: The clinical programs at UF Law (Pro Se Clinic, Juvenile Clinic, Full Representation Clinic, Criminal Prosecution Clinic, Criminal Defender Clinic, Mediation Clinic, Child Welfare Clinic and Conservation Clinic) provide students with extensive opportunities to represent actual clients under the close supervision of faculty or attorneys. Such practical “hands on” experience enhances the understanding of the law learned in classrooms. Participation in a clinical program may allow students to earn credits or to earn Florida Supreme Court certification as certified legal interns.
Centers and institutes incorporate teaching, research and scholarship in a variety of areas. Students are able to participate in research, conferences, and speaker series. Some centers and institutes also provide students with opportunities to engage in externships.
AD: UF offers several concentration certificates for its matriculating J.D. students. What is the value of obtaining a concentration certificate and when does a student typically choose a specific concentration?
MA: Through our certificate programs, UF Law students have the chance to pursue a coherent course of study that will make them more sophisticated in a particular area and more competitive in the market for new lawyers. By fulfilling certain requirements, including taking an additional 8 credits above the required 88 credits to graduate, students receive a valuable credential that indicates both concentration and accomplishment in a particular field. These certificate programs are focused and rigorous and are designed to prepare new lawyers to work in these specialized fields and to assume responsibility quickly. Certificate program students receive tailored academic advisement, mentoring and career development guidance from faculty in the particular area. Students are encouraged to apply for certificate programs in their second semester.
AD: What is the selection process for getting into a concentration program? Are a student’s grades or other factors considered?
MA: The selection process varies between areas, but essentially, the requirements for an award of certification are a required number of credits or courses, and in some cases, maintaining a specified GPA in these courses.
AD: Take us through UF’s admissions review process. How does UF evaluate a candidate’s undergraduate GPA, LSAT score report, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and other relevant factors?
MA: The College of Law seeks to admit and enroll students who, collectively, bring to its educational program a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, interests and perspectives. With this in mind, selection is based on the applicant’s academic credentials, including LSAT score, UGPA, level of writing skills, breadth of studies, and on other criteria, including, but not limited to, the applicant’s work and other life experience, leadership experience, depth of particular interest, and any other aspect of an applicant’s background suggesting a suitability for the study and practice of law. Ours is a holistic review process where no one factor carries more weight that another.
AD: How much weight does UF place on an applicant’s LSAT score?
MA: The LSAT is of course an important factor, but it is one of many factors that the Admissions Committee considers in its review. No percentage or weight is assigned to the LSAT score in the review process.
AD: How does your admissions office evaluate two students with identical GPAs, one of whom went to a Tier 1 college and another who went to a Tier 2 college?” “Tier 1 v. Tier 3?”
MA: There are several factors that would come under consideration in a case like this, and review and the ultimate decision would not hinge solely on the tier of a college. The Admissions Committee would take into consideration the difficulty of the student’s major, the courses taken and the level of courses (introductory courses, graduate level cources etc), trends in grades throughout the four years, and the strength of the undergraduate institution attended.
AD: Do you find one undergraduate major better preparation for law school than another? For instance, many undergraduate institutions offer a Pre-Law major — does UF look more or less favorably on Pre-Law majors when deciding whether to offer admission?
MA: The Admissions Committee looks at whether the chosen major has given the applicant the opportunity to develop and enhance the skills that will make him or her a successful law student and eventually, a successful attorney. Majors that require coursework that develops strong analytical and logical reasoning as well as writing skills and research skills will be most helpful to students. Majors can be in any field and do not have to be in law-related fields. Coursework that develops these types of skills and in which a student has performed very well, will be looked upon more favorably than coursework that does not especially help to develop these skills.
AD: What are the 5 most common mistakes applicants make on their applications?
They do not proof read for typos.
They do not abide by specific instructions regarding length of essays.
They do not reveal disciplinary matters for fear that these incidents may be held against them in the review process.
Their recommenders are not people who know them well and can speak specifically about their skills and ability to be successful law students.
They do not answer all of the questions on the application (this is related to #1 above).
AD: Do you have any advice about canceling an LSAT score? Will the admissions office know an applicant canceled a score and is there any stigma attached to a cancelled score?
MA: The LSAT score report will show that an applicant has canceled a score and while individual members of the Admissions Committee may view a canceled score in different ways, I personally do not see a canceled score in a negative way. I think that students should think carefully about canceled a score though, since it is a long and difficult test to have to sit through a second or third time.
AD: Do you have any advice for students when getting letters of recommendations?
MA: Yes, students should get recommendations from professors or employers who know them well and can speak specifically about their academic experience, skills and abilities. It can also be helpful for students to provide their recommenders with a draft of their resumes and personal statement.
AD: What does it really mean if you’re placed on UF’s waitlist, and can you offer any (non-harassing) strategies for getting off that list?
MA: If a student is waitlisted, it means that enough admitted students placed their deposit to secure their seat in the entering class and that the entering class is full. If there is a withdrawal from the entering class, then the Admissions Committee would review the waitlist and make an offer to someone on this list. Waitlisted students who want to remain on the waitlist should sign and return their waitlist form in order to guarantee that their file will be reviewed if an opening occurs in the entering class. Unfortunately, being waitlisted means being very patient throughout the process.
AD: What is the most memorable/effective applicant essay you read?
MA: I have read many essays and personal statements throughout the years, and the ones that stand out as very effective are those that really provide information about the applicant that is not already available in other parts of the application. I have worked in the admissions offices of three different law schools, each of which have had different essay requirements, and the best essays are those that follow the instructions, are written well and without typos, and that provide information about the applicant that goes beyond “the numbers.”
AD: Given the current economy, what trends are you seeing in law school applications? Do you expect the upcoming admissions cycle to be particularly heavy?
MA: It is still too early in the cycle to be able to tell whether we will see a rise in application volume. UF Law has seen a slow rise in applications in recent years, but nothing significant.
AD: Do you give “extra credit” to an applicant who tells you that he/she will accept an offer from your school should they receive an offer?
MA: It is always nice to hear that we are an applicant’s first choice, but no, an applicant does not receive extra credit if they share this information.
AD: Once accepted, in your experience what is the biggest surprise that students encounter in law school?
MA: The amount of work required to do well.
AD: What are the common characteristics you see in students who truly excel and end up at the top of their 1L class?
MA: They are thoughtful, honest, driven and willing to work hard. Success is very important to them.
AD: In past years you have seen as many as 200 employers come on campus and participate in on-campus recruiting. Are you seeing employers pull back their recruiting efforts given the current economy?
MA: While we continue to host one of the largest On-Campus Interview (OCI) programs in the Southeast, we have suffered along with the rest of the country in the impact of the downturn on employment prospects. Jobs are harder to find, and firms have cut back considerably in their visitation and hiring patterns. We are being very aggressive in our efforts to counter this, and we anticipate an uptick in the spring recruiting program as legal employers have more time to assess their needs.
AD: As private firms become more and more selective, what is UF doing to help ensure its graduates find employment?
MA: We have stepped up our career development programming to assist students in becoming more competitive in the marketplace, and we continue to strengthen our connections with legal employers.
AD: Since the admissions admissions has become so competitive, we’re seeing more and more students transferring — in fact, UF accepted 24 students in the last cycle, but only lost 12 students to other schools. Do you have any opinions about why there is such an interest among both students and schools in transferring?
MA: With an applicant pool of over 3,400 for 300 seats, getting into UF Law can be competitive, and some students will try to gain admission as transfer students. I think the interest in transferring to UF Law comes in part from the fact that applicants recognize the great value that they receive from a UF Law education.
AD: Is there a group of schools you consistently take transfer students from? Do you have any advice for students seeking to transfer to UF?
MA: In recent years, a majority of admitted transfer students have come from Florida A & M University School of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law and Barry University School of Law. Students seeking to transfer should focus on their first year performance as first year grades are a key component of the transfer review process.