LSAC’s PLUS Programs Help Set Students on the Path to an Impactful Legal Career
Starr Gibens, a third-year student at North Carolina State University, was interested in a legal education before she attended an online Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program. After attending, though, she had no doubt law was in her future. “It made me more confident in my ability to attend and succeed in law school,” she says. “I am absolutely certain that I will pursue a law degree because of the PLUS Program and the tools it provided. My passion for legal advocacy and fighting systemic injustice was affirmed by this program.”
In fact, that affirmation is a key goal of the PLUS Programs, which are hosted annually in the summer by LSAC’s member law schools, with support from LSAC. The programs provide an immersive experience that focuses on the skills needed to succeed in law school, the admission process, career options after law school, and networking opportunities. These programs are aimed at undergraduate students from underrepresented communities, but anyone can attend. There is no cost, and participants receive a $1,000 stipend.
Due to COVID-19, this summer’s PLUS Programs were moved online, providing participants with a similarly immersive format that could be accessed from their homes. LSAC also provided laptops and internet access to participants in need of such assistance. Gibens says that while she was initially disappointed not to be attending in person, LSAC PLUS Online, hosted by the University of Akron School of Law, exceeded her expectations. “The virtual meetings were manageable, and the Akron program leaders worked hard to create a productive learning environment,” she says. “I was still able to build long-lasting relationships with my peers as well as the program facilitators and guests.”
Gibens is a first-generation college student who had never seen a law school application or interacted with law professors or students. LSAC PLUS Online gave her that opportunity, she says, and she was also able to engage with a lawyer who, like her, is a Black woman — and was even familiar with the small town where Gibens grew up. “I know that there will be barriers to accessing law school and succeeding in law school as a first-gen Black woman from a limited socioeconomic background,” she says. “The program was designed to make my legal career goals more accessible despite these barriers.”
Indeed, the PLUS Programs aim to expose underrepresented students to the impact they can make with a law degree — with the ultimate goal of leading to more people from such groups attending law school, becoming lawyers, and adding their voices to a profession in which diversity is critical. “If the legal system does not become reflective of the communities it intends to serve, then it can never adequately serve any community,” Gibens says. “The legal system will continue to discriminate, oppress, and perpetuate inequality if it does not become more diverse.”
Gibens currently sees herself pursuing a career in criminal law or civil rights law, and thanks to the LSAC PLUS Online program she attended, she’s confident in her future. “This program has easily been a highlight of my undergraduate career,” she says. “In our current social climate, there are plenty of ways to learn about the functions and failures of our legal system. But these courses truly demonstrated what makes studying law and practicing law unique.”