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June: the Month of Weddings, Roses, and Really Late Law School Deadlines.

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June: the month of weddings, roses, and really late law school deadlines.

We’ve told you time and again to get your applications in early. Most of you listened. However, some of the questions we’ve been getting recently have shown us that many of you, unfortunately, have not. A lot of people want to know which schools will accept a June LSAT score… for a Fall 2011 start. The answer isn’t a list of schools. The answer is that there are only a few instances in which you should care.

To get a better idea of why this is the case, let’s take a look at some schools and their deadlines. Because of the lag time between the LSAT and when scores come out (approximately three weeks) law school with deadlines around August will accept the June LSAT; those with a deadline of, say, March 1st will not.

We start at the top:

  1. Yale – March 1st (changed from February this year)
  2. Harvard – February 1st
  3. Stanford – February 1st
  4. Columbia – February 15th
  5. University of Chicago – February 1st

Now, let’s look at the lower tiers:

  • Thomas Jefferson – No deadline
  • Cooley – They don’t appear to have a deadline (offering “Some of the most flexible scheduling options in the nation!”), and their website looks like an ‘As Seen on TV’ ad.
  • Texas Southern University – “Recommend by” April 1st, but no hard deadline.
  • Regent – Until the class is filled.

The first thing I noticed while researching this article was the difficulty of finding information for the lower ranked schools. A search for ‘Harvard Law School application deadline’ returned a hard answer. A search for ‘Cooley Law School application deadline’ led me on a rabbit chase through a series of websites that finally told me something about their deadlines.

As you can see from the lists above, the lower the school is ranked, the more likely they are to accept a later LSAT. This waiting game allows them to fill their classes after the other schools have, sadly, crushed many a dream. (Students released from other law school waiting lists are free to accept other offers).  However, using these schools as a ‘second chance’ isn’t always the best idea, for two reasons.

First, the legal market has contracted sharply in recent years. While certainly improving, it’s no longer a sure route to caviar, yachts, and a twin on each arm. It’s become difficult for Harvard grads to find a high paying job after graduation; it’s darn near impossible to get one from a fourth tier school (from which those that accept June LSATs almost exclusively come). Before plunking down (at least) $120K, think about how long that will take you to pay that back at around $40K a year. If you have something lined up (rich dad, years at a law firm as a paralegal with an offer pending graduation, rich uncle, uhm… I think that’s it), then one of these schools might work for you. Otherwise, you probably want to wait a year and see if you can improve your application (read: higher LSAT score) for a better school.

Secondly, you might be thinking of transferring out of one of these schools into a better institute. That’s certainly an option, but you need to realize that it’s an uphill battle. Many law schools require you to be in the top 10% of your class just to be considered. Are you ready to dedicate yourself to the level of insanity necessary to guarantee your position there? Actively sabotaging other students might be necessary. Also, you won’t be going from Cooley to Harvard; there are only so many transfer slots, and schools hold them for other institutes in the same tier. A move from a fourth tier to a third tier law school is possible, but jumping to the first is going to be exceedingly difficult.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course.  As mentioned previously, if you are attending a lower-ranked school without paying (perhaps from a scholarship offer that makes tuition free or greatly reduced, a parental credit card to pick up the tab, or a job guaranteed upon graduation), then by all means June is a fine option.  For the rest of us, however, it would be wise to be wary.

So if you’re asking about the June LSAT, it should be for the upcoming application season. You’ll get a head start over most other applicants, increasing your chances at getting into that school that seems just out of your reach. It will keep you from going into a huge amount of debt without the best job prospects, and it will give you a year to sit around, drinking, and relax a bit before law school starts. Of course, volunteer a little bit so that the law schools don’t think you sat around, drinking, and relaxing a bit before law school starts.

Article by Harvard Law School graduate and Blueprint law school application consultant Matt Shinners.

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