A Word of Advice for Law School Applicants
Applying to law school is not- and should not be- an easy decision to make. Granted, some of you may have grown up on Law and Order or have parents who are attorneys, so have always felt the drive to enter law school. But for many of you, this may be a fork in the road that you are nervous about, wondering whether you are making the right decision. Sure, law school is only 3 years, but it is 3 intense years (well, at least 2 intense years, with the last one thrown in for kicks). You will be sacrificing a great deal of your time and money in those years, so you want to do your best to investigate whether law school is the correct path for you.
Our goal is not to determine whether law school is right for you. That is a decision that you will need make yourself after careful consideration of your interests, career goals, financial situation, and personal circumstances. Our goal is to help you make an informed decision. In keeping with this goal, we outline a "three phase" approach in thinking about applying to law school. While we provide a large amount of information, you will need to do your own research about specific schools, programs, and career opportunities.
Once you have decided that law school is right for you and that you want to apply, peruse through our very useful "How to" Guides on topics ranging from how to write a personal statement to how to prepare for the LSATs. These guides have been prepared by law students who have been through the arduous process of applying to law schools- and made it! The guides a great place to start when thinking about your application- the requirements, the strategy, and the decisionmaking.
Best of luck in your law school endeavors!
I'm still in college... what can I do now to prepare for law school?
Build the right skills
If you are an undergraduate student, there are some things you can do from academic standpoint that will prepare you for the heavy workloads associated with a law school curriculum. First, take challenging courses that fit your interests. You do not need to take "legal" courses to prepare for law school- you will learn "the law" once you get to law school. Focus on courses in subjects that you find appealing because it will both allow you to do well and inspire you to undertake a more thoughtful approach to the work. Second, do research. Research builds skills such as attention to detail, organization, broad-based and nuanced analysis, and critical evaluation. Law school admissions committees tend to look favorably upon independent research on interesting topics.
If you find yourself not being comfortable speaking in public, it’s not the end of the world. But for law school it’s a must, so try and get ahead by practicing your public speaking in the University environment. For example, join an organization and take an active role. You can become a Director of Communications or Outreach which will significantly help you improve your interpersonal and speaking skills.
These approaches to school are useful not just for law schools but for a wide variety of careers. Developing these skills will help you in careers ranging from law to medicine to business.
Get involved on campus or in the community. Take leadership roles in activities you feel passionate about and take both responsibility and initiative. Start a project or fundraising effort. Extracurricular activities are a great way to demonstrate leadership and confidence, demonstrating to the admissions committee that your skills and abilities stretch far beyond the classroom.
Establish strong relationships with 2-3 professors. You will need these relationships when it comes time to ask for recommedations for your law school application. Getting a faculty rec in college is much more difficult than in high school- there are thousands of students and just a handful of professors. The key is to start cultivating relationships early. A great way to do this is through research. Either join or propse a research project. This will likely gain you a faculty mentor who will guide you along the way. Another way is to take smaller seminars where you have more personal interactions with faculty. Finally, always remember to give your rec writer a copy of your resume, a transcript (if it's good), and a copy of your personal statement. This way the rec letter will be more "personal" and specific to your application.
Talk to current law students. Talking to several law students will give you a diversity of perspectives in terms of what motivated people to go to law school, how they view that decision, what law school has to offer, and what career opportunities are available. Ask students both general and specific questions regarding how they view their law school, academic programs, extracurricular and social activities, and the intellecutal/academic/social environment. Finally, ask about their experiences applying to law school. Did they make any mistakes? Did they do something really well?
Meet with your career counselor or a career development officer. These are professionals who have years of experience dealing with students who are exploring post-graduation opportunities. You and your counselor can work through your interests, short- and long-term career goals, and other issues. You might end up concluding that a legal education can best further your goals and match your interests- or you might not!
Explore materials that describe the law school experience and provides a realistic assessment of the career opportunities available post-graduation. If you are going to law school in search of a $160,000 a year job, you might be in for significant disappointment. Visit the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) website to get a sense of the law school admissions process, placement statistics, and other important information. Visit individual law school websites to see how the law schools you are interested in stack up in terms of admissions, career placement, and academic programs.
Law school can be an amazing three years of intense intellectual development and personal growth. But, it can also be a miserable place if you enter oblivious to the actual benefits of a legal education and without having done due diligence about your own goals and interests.
Try out a legal internship
Spending some time at a law firm as a paralegal, legal research assistant, or legal intern can give you the inside view of the workings of a law firm. While your experience may not be reflective of the work that the lawyers are actually doing, you can gain important legal research and writing skills as well as gain exposure to the day-to-day life of lawyers.
A legal experience will also allow you to network with lawyers. This experience can allow to ask honest questions about how attorneys made their journeys into the law, how they enjoyed their law school experiences, and what advice they have to offer you. Asking questions to real attorneys is probably one of the most useful things you can do to learn about the legal profession in practice.
I'm ready to apply to law school... give me some advice!
The L-Word: LSAT
Where should I apply?
The Law School Application
The Personal Statement