How One Student’s Passion for Law Was Amplified by the LSAC PLUS Program

Victoria EsparazLike many college students, Victoria Esparza saw her life upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a senior studying political science and Spanish at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Esparza hoped to enter law school the fall after graduation. But financial hardships related to the pandemic, and needing to care for her younger sister while their mother worked, forced her to delay her plans. “Now I’m hoping to pursue law school in the upcoming cycle,” she says.

LSAC and its member law schools are adapting too. One example is the annual Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program which is hosted every summer at participating law schools, with support from LSAC. In summer 2020, this vital program — which aims to give undergraduate students from underrepresented groups an immersive look at law school and the admission process — was moved online, so students like Esparza could access it from home.

Esparza virtually attended an LSAC PLUS Online program at the University of Texas at Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement this past summer. “It looked like a really good opportunity to develop my law school skills and get a sense for what to expect,” she says. “Additionally, it’s designed for students who come from low-income and underrepresented communities, so I felt like I really had a chance to be part of it.”

There is no cost for the program, and participants receive a $1,000 stipend. LSAC also provided laptop computers and internet access to any student who needed that assistance to participate in the program.

During the program, students learn about the skills needed to succeed in law school, the admission process, and their career options after law school. “Every professor, director, and faculty member who was part of the program was amazing,” Esparza says. “Even though COVID-19 is happening, I connected very well virtually with the other participants, and I continue to stay in touch with them.”

She also says the information she learned about the admission process, such as the fact that the LSAT is just one component of schools’ admission decisions, was invaluable. “It only made me believe in myself more and continue to strive to pursue a career in law, regardless of the struggles that I may face,” she adds. “The individuals I came across, both staff and participants, were such an incredible support system.”

Esparza plans to focus on immigration law and human rights law, areas where a diverse legal system — one that’s representative of the people it’s serving — is especially important. “If someone is truly committed to fairly representing a client because they understand their struggles, it can have such a big impact on the life and future of that client,” she says. “It’s important to open the doors of law to people from all backgrounds, and to be able to give hope and opportunities to marginalized communities. The people in these communities deserve to pursue careers in law, but they also deserve good lawyers who will fight for their rights.”

Details about the 2021 PLUS Online program will be available soon. In the meantime, you can learn more by visiting the PLUS page of our website. You may also read about Starr Gibens, another 2020 PLUS Online scholar who recently shared her experience with us.