Every four years since 1992, the Pre-Law National Council (PLANC) has sponsored a national conference bringing together members of the six regional pre-law advisor associations throughout the country. Meeting first in New Orleans, then in Orlando in 1996, in San Diego in 2000, and in historic Boston in 2004. 2004 also marked the twentieth anniversary of PLANC’s formation in 1984 as a coordinating body for the regional associations. Dean Gerald Wilson, one of PLANC’s founders and its first chairperson, provides a brief look back at PLANC’s first twenty four years.
PLANC: More Than Just a Board
Gerald L. Wilson, Duke University
Many tales begin, “It was a dark and stormy night.” This one begins, “It was a hot and humid day”! At the invitation of Willa Folch-Pi, the President of NAPLA: 1983-84, four Presidents of Regional Pre-Law Advisors Associations attended the NAPLA Conference at Rosemont College, Rosemont, Pennsylvania, June13-15, 1984. This invitation suggested that the Presidents engage in conversation on ways in which the Regional Associations could and should cooperate for their mutual benefit. Old timers in the pre-law advising process will remember two things: (1) the founding of PLANC at this conference and (2) realizing it was the hottest it got that summer as we slept, or tried to sleep, in un-air conditioned dorms.
The establishment of PLANC at this conference was not, however, the result of an immaculate conception, but rather represented the culmination of a number of factors long in the making. Four years earlier, on April 19, 1980, at the O’Hare Hilton in Chicago, a meeting of four APLA Presidents and several APLA Presidents – Elect, along with LSAC representatives, discussed the establishment of a national steering committee to link the APLAS and “assist the LSAC in promulgating programs of benefit to pre-law advisors and their advisees.” Though there was no direct follow up, by 1984 in view of the growing strength of the Regional Pre-Law Advisors Associations, it became clear that the concerns of each were the concerns of all and these concerns could have a better hearing by both the LSAC and the law schools if voiced in a common voice. In addition, some Associations were engaging in individual independent projects simultaneously when a common shared project might have saved time, effort, and money. Pre-Law Advisor Handbooks provided a good example of such a project.
On June 14, 1984, PLANC was formally established with Gerald L. Wilson, Duke University (SAPLA), designated to serve as Chair of the Council; and with Michael A. Cappeto, Washington and Lee University (NAPLA), and Robert H. Gibson, SUNY – Albany (NAPLA), as the first newsletter editors. The newsletter was tentatively named The Advocate until someone observed that there was already a publication called The Advocate. Thus, PLANC POINTS was born and has continued as a quality publication under the direction of subsequent co-editors Frank Homer, University of Scranton (NAPLA), and Jerry Polinard, University of Texas-Pan American (SWAPLA).
Four initial problems appeared from the outset. First, the concept of a National Coordinating Council had to be accepted by the existing five APLAS. This was accomplished quickly. Second, the skeleton was there, but it needed the flesh of organization. On October 14, 1984, with edits, amendments, and re-edits, PLANC’s first set of By-Laws was adopted, and the organization began to take shape.
The third problem facing the pre-law organization was recognition. Immediately upon the formation of PLANC, the Chair approached the Law School Admission Council, and as a result of a series of conversations, the first of what is now an annual meeting of the PLANC Board with LSAC (now Law Services) was scheduled. It would be a bit of an overstatement to say that LSAC welcomed PLANC with open arms, but the LSAC officer then assigned to liaison with PLANC, Paul Richard, proved to be a great friend in those early days. The first meeting of the PLANC Board with LSAC was a stormy one indeed with one angry LSAC official walking, no, “storming” out of the meeting not to be seen again.
The fourth major issue was that of finances. A “shares” system was developed whereby each APLA contributed on the basis of number of members. Funds for the first issues of PLANC POINTS were generously donated by law schools. One of the two early accomplishments of PLANC was its contribution to the reestablishment of PCAPLA in April, 1985. The other was the preparation of the document “The Role and Responsibilities of Pre-Law Advisors” which was completed and published in the Spring 1986 PLANC POINTS. Through the subsequent years of PLANC’S existence, with strong leadership and the assistance of wonderful friends at Law Services like Phil Shelton, Beth Cobb O’Neil, and Anne Brandt, much progress has been made in terms of bringing pre-law advisors and Law Services into a much closer working relationship. What follows are some of the high points of PLANC’s twenty year history.
In 1989, Robert Gibson of SUNY-Albany (NAPLA) became the second Chair and under his leadership discussions were begun about the possibility of a national conference. At the same time, PLANC developed a strong statement opposing the growing trend among law schools to use “self-completing applications” whereby the students collected recommendations and submitted them with their application.
The third chair, Jerry Polinard, University of Texas-Pan American (SWAPLA), oversaw the first National Conference held in New Orleans, with a focus on “Professional Development.” In his years as chair, further evidence of the increased recognition of PLANC came when PLANC was invited to send a representative to the ABA’s newly formed committee on Pre-Legal Education, which had as one of its goals the revision of its forty year old statement on pre-legal education.
In 1993, Jim Riley of Regis University (WAPLA) became the fourth Chair and under his guidance PLANC recommended a common law school application as a means of streamlining the application process for both applicants and law schools. The subsequent Chair, Sally Derrwald, Wisconsin – Milwaukee (MAPLA), continued the forward thrust of PLANC and played a major part in strengthening our ties with Law Services. During her term, the second National Conference, focusing on technology, was held in Orlando. Like the first conference, it was a huge success. Sally was followed by Chair-elect, Tom Brown, Saint Mary’s College of California (PCAPLA), but he left his institution for another position and resigned his Chair’s position shortly after his term began.
Charles Neal, McDaniel College (NAPLA), succeeded Tom, serving out his unexpired term as well as the term to which he was elected. During Chaz’s term PLANC established a Web site and held its third National Conference in San Diego, centering around the theme, “The New Century: Issues and Challenges.”
Eileen Crane, Brigham Young University (WAPLA), became the eighth Chair in 2001 and under her aegis ties with PLANC Partners (NALP, ABA, CLEO, Law Services, and Law Access) were greatly strengthened. She oversaw the revising of the PLANC By-Laws including more attention to fiscal matters, budget planning, and distribution of funds.
Nim Batchelor, Elon University (SAPLA), was active in the planning of the 2004 conference “Sailing into the Future: Revolutionary Ideas for a Diverse Profession.” In addition to revising further the By-Laws and his continuing of Eileen Crane’s process of self-evaluation by PLANC, the Board under Nim’s leadership also passed a resolution requesting law schools to discontinue the use of Dean’s Letters.
James V. Calvi, West Texas A & M University, served as Chair from 2005-2007. During his term, progress was made on Financial Aid Packages and PLANC assisted LSAC with the development of the Pre-Law Advisors web site. Also, the ties with our PLANC Partners were strengthened. Also, during his term initial planning for this 2008 Conference was begun and Jim has continued to play an active role by serving as Co-Chair of this Conference.
Frank Guliuzza became the Chair of PLANC in 2007 while the Council was preparing for the Conference in Las Vegas. From the outset, he was determined to take an active role in helping to administer the 2008 Conference. He is an Advocate for a more significant role for PLANC in the pre-law advising community and he would like PLANC to serve as an effective voice for the pre-law advising community with its “partners” (LSAC, CLEO, NALP, Access Group and the ABA) and with other outside entities including the 180+ accredited law schools, the organizations that host competitive simulated legal activities (e.g., AMTA and ACMA), commercial preparation companies, and the larger community of college and university advisors (e.g. NACADA). Further he wants to secure a place for PLANC to work with those pre-law advisors who are not currently taking advantage of all that the APLAs provide. Accordingly he believes that PLANC can help directly prepare PLAs; it can help the burgeoning scholarship of advising; and it can serve PLAs by directing new advisors to their APLAs for excellent training and preparation.
This brief history, really more fragments than narrative, is basically a skeletal outline of what will become a more comprehensive history in the next few years. Readers and Board members, past and present, are invited to add both to the skeleton and the flesh. Especially welcome are vignettes that bring color to this ongoing history. It is the hope of those who have, and do currently serve on the PLANC Board, that PLANC can continue to live up to its purposes as stated in the Preamble to its By-Laws of advocating the interests of the APLAs, acting as a liaison between and among the APLAs and between the APLAs and Law Services, and assisting in the improvement of the skills of pre-law advisors through a quadrennial National Conference and other appropriate means.
PLANC CHAIRS 1984 -2013
Gerald Lee Wilson 1984 - 1989 (Duke University - SAPLA)
Robert Gibson 1989 - 1991 (SUNY at Albany - NAPLA)
Jerry Polinard 1991 - 1993 (University of Texas - Pan American -SWAPLA)
Jim L. Riley 1993 - 1995 (Regis University - WAPLA)
Sally Derrwald 1995 - 1997 (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee - MAPLA)
Thomas Brown 1997 - 1998 (Saint Mary’s College of California - PCAPLA)
Charles Neal 1998 - 2001 (Western Maryland College - NAPLA)
Eileen Crane 2001 - 2003 (Brigham Young University - WAPLA)
Nim Batchelor 2003-2005 (Elon University – SAPLA)
James V. Calvi 2005-2007 (West Texas University-SWAPLA)
Frank Guliuzza 2007-2009 (Weber State University, Patrick Henry College-WAPLA)
Mel Hailey 2009-2011 (Abilene Christian University-SWAPLA)
Heather Struck 2011-2013 (Cornell University-NAPLA)