PLANC: More Than Just A Board

Gerald L. Wilson, Duke University
With Contributions from Past Chairs and Additional material from Jerry Polinard

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-Rio Grande Valley (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, albeit with some debate. More than one person commented on the irony that we were in Philadelphia, where a couple of hundred years earlier, the issue of whether the states (aka, APLAS) were sovereign, or whether the central “government” (aka PLANC) controlled. Elements of that debate continue today.  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 with one angry LSAC official walking, no, “storming” out of the meeting not to be seen again. 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 m