Pre-Law SUmmer Institute

FAQWhat To Expect at PLSI

What is PLSI?

Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indians and Alaska Natives

PLSI is an intensive two-month program that prepares American Indian and Alaska Native individuals for the rigors of law school by essentially replicating the first semester of law school. The PLSI concentrates its content into eight weeks of instruction, research and study, teaching students the unique methods of law school research, analysis, and writing. The success of the PLSI in providing a nationally respected pre-law orientation can be traced to its original and continuing intent — that it be based on sound legal education principles, and not function as a philosophical, political, or cultural training ground. For more than five decades, the Law Center has remained dedicated to providing valid training in the skills required for the study of law.

What to expect at PLSI
  • This is a rigorous 8-week program that leaves little to no time for sightseeing or other pursuits. This is not a vacation or a summer camp. The program requires hard work and dedication. You will experience a full schedule of law school classes and assignments, reading extensively to prepare for class, midterm exams, final exams, memos, and brief writing. Our alumni refer to this program as a “boot camp.”
  • You are expected to read all documents thoroughly, meet all requirements, and learn and practice brand new skills. We expect you to be open to new ways of learning, processing information, and writing.
  • We provide housing in the University of New Mexico dormitories. 
  • We expect you to be fully engaged in this program, meaning that you will not participate or engage in other programs, projects, classes, and employment during your time in PLSI. We expect that you will respect deadlines and submit your assignments when they are due. The program is too short to allow deadline extensions.  Extensions are at the discretion of your professors.
  • We are a professional program. Therefore, we expect professionalism and respect in all interactions with AILC and UNM staff, students, and faculty.
  • The schedule is set in advance and barring emergency circumstances, you are required to be on time, be prepared, attend every class, attend all mandatory meetings, and timely meet with the AILC staff, professors, and teaching assistants when requested. Please consider this before committing to the program.  If you cannot commit, do not attend.
  • Expect to create lifelong connections, networks, and friendships. Expect to continue to inspire and encourage your cohort throughout your law school career and beyond.
  • While this sounds like a lot, please expect us to BELIEVE in you. You would not be here if we did not know you could do it. You can get through this program. Trust the process that has worked for over 55 years. Please come with an open mind and let us help you succeed in this program.
Who should attend?

Any American Indian or Alaska Native who plans to attend law school in the fall after attending the summer program of PLSI. Law school is unlike any other course of study. The skills required to study law are both unique and vital to success in law school, and these are the skills that the PLSI begins to teach.

Some have mistakenly believed that the PLSI is designed to be an admission-by-performance program for students with lower than average predictors. That is not the case.  Although it serves that function for some students, the Institute is as valid a preparatory program for the student with a GPA and LSAT score in the top 25% as it is for students in the lower quartiles. Students who have been admitted to top ten law schools receive as much benefit as students who have not yet been admitted to law school when they begin the program. Further, attending the PLSI will give you the opportunity to become part of a cohort of Native American law students from around the country who will have established relationships with Native lawyers nationwide when you begin practice.

The Institute is strongly endorsed by a wide variety of both state and private law schools nationwide. PLSI graduates have gone on to such prestigious schools as Cornell, Harvard, and Stanford, as well as to a wide spectrum of both state and private universities around the country. Graduates may be found throughout federal, tribal, and state governments and courts, as well as in private practice and in industry.

How much does it cost?

Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) grants cover tuition, fees, housing, and most meals for qualified PLSI participants.  BIE grants also allow for a modest living allowance.  The allowance amount depends on the number of qualified participants (up to 36).  

PLSI provides all textbooks required to participate.  We will issue these books to participants at registration.  The books become each participant’s private property and sole responsibility.  PLSI cannot replace lost, stolen, or destroyed books.

PLSI can help with the cost of a laptop to be used in the program and law school.  We do not purchase laptops for students but can help to reimburse for a portion of the cost.  More information will be available at registration after we have a final head count of participants.

Our grants allow for reimbursement of reasonable costs for travel to and from Albuquerque to participate.  Reasonable travel costs include reasonable mileage or economy airfare, whichever is less expensive.  Travel costs do not include hotels, meals, or fuel.  Reimbursement forms will be available at registration.

What is not included?

The PLSI does not provide transportation, household items, or school supplies. The PLSI living allowance is provided for those purposes.  

Participants do not receive academic credit for PLSI. The advantage is that the participants’ law school records are not prejudiced by less than stellar grades which might be the result of students making the necessary adjustments to law school. The disadvantage is that attending PLSI does not qualify participants for waivers of repayment of academic loans.


The PLSI consists of eight weeks of intensive study structured in much the same way as the first semester of law school. The course load consists of three substantive law courses, including Federal Indian Law and two first-year core curriculum subjects which vary from year to year. Participants also will take an advocacy/legal writing course in which they will prepare a complete appellate moot court case including writing a legal memorandum and brief, and presenting an oral argument at the end of the program. 

Students who are committed to excel in law school must make the same commitment to the PLSI. Classes are scheduled Monday through Friday throughout the program and attendance at all classes is mandatory. Just as timeliness is mandatory in the practice of law, it is mandatory in assignments for the PLSI. While many undergraduate courses claim that two hours of study is required for every hour in class which may or may not be true, in law school that is a low estimate. In fact, for every hour spent in class, a minimum of two to three hours of study and research time is necessary. Since the PLSI is a full-time course of study, outside classes and employment are not allowed during the eight weeks. The PLSI requires a significant investment of time, energy, endurance, and ability, so applicants should be sure they are willing to make a firm commitment before accepting a spot in our class.

Faculty and Teaching Assistants

Our faculty are nationally prominent professors from law schools across the country.   A core faculty is maintained from previous years giving continuity to the program, while one or two new members are invited each year to foster new concepts and approaches. Our goal not only is to have excellent professors, but also to have a representation of the different teaching styles which students will encounter in law school. This allows PLSI participants to be prepared for whatever teaching style is used in their particular law school – from the very formal Socratic method of teaching, to the small section one-on-one style.  

In addition to the top professors, some of the best students from the previous year’s PLSI class are hired as teaching assistants to assist students with their assignments and help them make the adjustments necessary for law school.  These outstanding and successful law students attend each class with the students and are available to help PLSI students each evening before the next day’s classes. 


I applied to law school but don’t know if I’ve been admitted. Can I still be admitted to PLSI?  

Yes. You must have submitted a complete application to an ABA-accredited law school, but you need not have been admitted before attending PLSI.


I have not taken the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) yet. Can I attend PLSI before I take the LSAT to see if I really want to go to law school? 

No. The PLSI admission process is much the same as the law school process, so you must have taken the LSAT, completed your undergraduate degree by May, and applied to law school prior to attending PLSI.  


How much does it cost to attend PLSI?

There are no charges to attend PLSI, but you will need funds to travel to and from Albuquerque. See the above “how much does it cost” section for details.

Who funds PLSI?

The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) are our major funders.  We also receive donations from law firms, alumni, and friends of the program.


The Pre-Law Summer Institute is supported by the funding of the Bureau of Indian Education, the Law School Admission Council, as well as individual grants and donations.