Webinars replacing traditional Law School info sessions

When Carolina Maharbiz LAW ’03, director of recruitment in the Law School admissions office, spoke to prospective Law School applicants from her office on Oct. 25, she was addressing more than two dozen Yale students and alumni. But none of the listeners was in the room with Maharbiz, and many were not in Connecticut.

Maharbiz was leading a Law School admissions webinar ­— a type of online information session made available this fall to students and alumni of 37 United States colleges and universities — that Dean of Admissions Asha Rangappa LAW ’00 said her office began in the wake of the nationwide economic downturn in 2009. The sessions were introduced as a cost-cutting alternative to information sessions held by admissions staff who traveled to college campuses for recruitment efforts. Though University President Richard Levin said at a town hall meeting in early October that Yale’s finances have stabilized, the Law School has opted both to continue expanding its more cost-efficient webinar program and to decrease its on-campus informational meetings with prospective students.

Webinars are held by the Law School at specific, prescheduled times — much like a traditional information session — and are also available to audiences from certain colleges and universities selected by Yale, rather than the general public. In addition to eliminating travel costs, Rangappa said webinars are also able to target a broader audience than traditional sessions.

“Essentially, the webinars are allowing us to reach out to more people at more schools,” Rangappa said.

The Law School admissions office was able to hold webinars this recruitment cycle for several schools it had not previously visited, Rangappa said, such as Vassar, Harvey Mudd and Grinnell Colleges.

Law School Director of Admissions Craig Janecek said webinars have benefited a growing population of students who take time off between graduating college and applying to law school, since the online sessions are available to alumni and easily viewed from any computer.

But as webinars have expanded, other forms of recruiting have dropped off at the Law School. Only 11 schools received in-person visits from admissions staff this fall, Janecek said, as opposed to roughly 20 to 30 institutions that admissions staff visited before the recession.

Anna Ramirez, dean of admissions and financial aid at the Divinity School, said while her office is interested in creating webinars in the future, she is unsure whether online sessions will be an effective recruitment tool for applicants to the Divinity School.

“My biggest concern is that with theological education, people really want to get to know the school and really get a sense for whether it’s going to be a good fit for them,” she said. “The face-to-face, one-on-one is still probably the most powerful tool as far as that goes.”

Two students and three alumni interviewed who have participated in a Law School webinar said they found the online information sessions more convenient, and preferred that format to the traditional one.

Hannah Geller ’07, who lives in upstate New York, said one advantage of viewing a webinar was that it eliminated a potential drive to New York City or New Haven.

“It’s also nice that you’re not around people who have traveled a long way and are all wearing suits and trying to impress everyone,” she said.

The two students interviewed also said they felt more comfortable asking questions at a webinar than an in-person information session.

Correction: Jan. 24

Due to an editorial error, this article misstated the class year of Yale Law School Dean of Admissions Asha Rangappa LAW ’00.

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