An Introduction to Law School Admissions
- Apr 26, 2016
You want to be a lawyer. We want you to be a lawyer, and we can help. There are just a few teensy-weensy things you’ve got to do before you pull up to the courthouse in your Maserati and your ostrich leather, Louis Vuitton suit.
Like what? Well, first of all, you have to get into law school.
The not-great news is that getting into law school is, for almost everyone, a significant investment of time and money. The great news is that, by the time you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll have a comprehensive idea of what you need to do and when you need to do it.
Generally speaking, law schools accept applications between October and February. That means that if, for instance, you want to start law school in August of 2018, application season runs between October 2017 and February 2018. Very few schools start their application season before October, but many schools – especially lower-ranked schools – accept applications beyond February, some as late as June.
Don’t take this to mean that a February application is just as good as an October application; it isn’t. Law schools typically practice rolling admissions, which means that they start giving away seats as soon as application season opens. So, you might be fighting for one of three hundred seats in October and only one of fifty seats in February. In other words, there’s no such thing as fashionably late when it comes to law school applications.
We’ll get to the details of what a complete application looks like in a second, but you should know that law schools will not bother to look at anything in your application until it is complete.
“Tick-tock,” says the applications timeline clock. “Stop ticking,” says the law school applicant.
Here are the elements of a complete application:
- Official Undergraduate Transcripts – This includes all work you did at any institution before you were awarded your Bachelor’s Degree. It does not include anything else. The grades contained herein represent all grades and the only grades that will be factored into your official GPA.
- Letters of Recommendation – Most schools require three letters, at least two of which are academic letters, i.e. written by professors or, in times of abject desperation, graduate student teaching assistants. If you’ve been out of school five years or more, most schools will accept professional letters, i.e. written by your work supervisor or other colleague.
- LSAT Score – You must take the Law School Admission Test. This is hard. We can help.
- Personal Statement – Each school has a prompt asking you to write an essay outlining why they ought to accept you. Most of those prompts are maddeningly vague, and so you can write one essay that you can tweak for different schools.
- Resume – This is pretty self-explanatory, but just make sure that this is geared toward showing why you’d make a great law school student.
When I was a kid, life was a lot tougher.
You’ll need a convincing personal statement and strong letters of recommendation.
Here are a few other things you can provide in addition to the above items:
- Other Transcripts – Feel free to send along any transcripts from graduate school work. While it won’t be factored into the official GPA with which you apply, it will be seen by admissions officers and can help inform their decision.
- Explanatory Essay(s) – Oy. You failed all your classes fall semester of your freshman year. Or you were arrested for possession while on spring break in Daytona Beach. Or your first LSAT score caused your parents to cut you out of the will. You may need to write an extra essay explaining an unflattering portion of your application. You should only do this if there is a good explanation of whatever the problem is, as well as evidence that you’ve fixed the problem.
- Additional Essays in the Application – If an optional prompt asks about how you’ll contribute to the diversity at the law school, answer it! Use all of your allotted space to sparkle like the little pre-law gem you are. Passing up these prompts is just a missed opportunity to showcase another facet of you. It also shows that you’re not interested enough in the school to complete the entire application.
Save the dramatics for your personal statement.
The Steps You Must Take
Do the following things, and do them in this order.
- Register for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). You don’t actually submit applications directly to law schools. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) – the pitiless demons that make the LSAT – collect all the pieces of your application and send them to schools.
- Register for the LSAT. Space at good testing centers runs out months before the exam. Do this ASAP. The October LSAT is the last LSAT you can take and still get your application considered at the beginning of the admissions cycle. All schools take December, but your application will arrive later in the cycle.
- Seek letters of recommendation. The reason this is so high on the list is that you have to rely on other people. Professors are notoriously difficult to get a hold of, and they have scores of other people seeking letters from them. Be sure you ask in person if at all possible.
- Get your official transcripts. Again, this step requires action on the part of another human being who may very well be malevolent and/or incompetent. Start early.
- Write your personal statement. This is the most important piece of your application after the LSAT and GPA. It should be edited by a third party and go through numerous revisions. You’ll also need to tailor different versions to different schools.
- Craft your resume and write any explanatory essays. These things are still very important, just not as important as items 1-5.
A 5-point plan that you can start implementing immediately.
The LSAT is not the only obstacle that stands between you and a completed law school application.
Got it? For detailed information on different aspects of the admissions process, thumb through the Admissions tab at the top of this page. You’ll be glad you did.
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