Return to Blog Homepage

Breaking Down Law School Early Decision and Early Action

For all you early birds, there’s still time to apply for law school early admissions. That is, of course, if the schools to which you’re applying accept early applications. If you intended to use your October LSAT score, you should have already checked to see if this was a possibility. And if you haven’t investigated but are interested, you’re in luck.

The first step you need to take is to check out this spreadsheet courtesy of US News & World Report, which lists its top 100 law schools and whether or not the schools accept early decision or early action, their deadline for early applications, an estimated decision date and extra notes. Obviously, you’ll want to double check if the information is current once a school catches your eye.

Now the question is, what the hell does all that mean?

Typically, the reason people take the October LSAT is so that they can apply to law school as early as possible. Those spots fill up quick, so the sooner you get your application in, the better chance you have of being accepted. This is why some schools offer early admissions.

So you apply early and get accepted early. Easy enough, right?

Well, there is one small catch: Sometimes the decision is binding. Meaning, if you apply early and the school accepts you, you must attend that school and withdraw all applications to other schools. These types of applications are called early decisions.

What that means is, you should only apply for an early decision at one school, and it must be a school in which there is no doubt in your mind you want to attend. Rumor has it that if two schools with binding early decisions accept you, they cut you in half so that you can attend both. Again, that’s just a rumor.

In all seriousness, the consequences of breaching a binding early decision are, well, serious. If you get accepted but have a change of heart so change-y you absolutely refuse to attend that school, the school may revoke its offer of admission and will likely alert other schools of the situation. Also, some schools (including Yale) receive a notification when one of their applicants is accepted via an early decision at another school. In other words, you won’t be able to sneak into another school after being accepted via early decision at another. Your only option is to wait a year for the next round. That’s a lot of time to sit and think about how your legal career has officially started with a breach of contract. Well done.

Some schools will listen if you have a unique situation that would prevent you from attending, but in general, it is extremely difficult to get out of an early decision. That’s why you should only try it if you are 100% certain that’s the school you want your law degree from. Also, some schools require additional documentation, essays or stipulations, so be sure to check that out.

An early action application, on the other hand, is a different story because those are non-binding. It’s just the school letting you know much earlier than usual their decision — whether it’s “Sure, we’d love to have you,” “What, are you kidding?” or “Ummmm, give us a few weeks.” And unlike early decision, you can also apply early action to as many schools as you want (at least, to those that offer early action).

With early action (that sounds more and more like gambling lingo each time I type it), there’s really nothing to lose — so quit reading this sentence and get your applications in.