Guide to getting into law school
The decision to attend law school is not to be taken lightly. But if you are serious about a legal career it may be one of the best choices you ever make. Once you are sure the legal sector is for you, there are a series of stages you need to follow to select and apply to schools. This article walks you through the process, from selecting a college to submitting your applications, to help you turn your law school dream into reality.
The path to law school
1. Complete a bachelor’s degree
Getting into law school requires an undergraduate degree. What you choose to study at bachelor’s level isn’t crucial, but subjects which are in some way connected to law can improve the strength of your application. Examples of undergraduate degrees that are popular with prospective law school students include political science, history, and psychology.
Although the subjects you choose at undergraduate level won’t make or break whether you get into law school, your GPA could. The closer you can get to a 4.0 GPA the better. Applicants with a GPA of less than 3.5 may struggle to get accepted.
2. Choosing a law school
The average law school applicant applies to between 5 and 15 different law schools. It makes sense for most of these applications to be for target schools, i.e. schools that you are keen to attend and have a good chance of acceptance. You can also apply for a couple of reach schools, i.e., schools that are likely beyond you because of the requirements, but which you would like to try to get into anyway. It is advisable to also submit applications to a couple of safety options; i.e., schools that you are likely to be accepted to because your scores are higher than the required average. Take note that some schools charge up to $85 to review your application, so being selective when submitting applications is recommended.
Not surprisingly, the top rated schools have very low acceptance rates, for example Yale (10%) and Stanford (11%). Other colleges have a much higher acceptance rate, such as New York University (33%) and Boston University (45%).
Important factors to consider when choosing a school are:
The location of the school can both impact on your college experience and the availability of internship openings. For example, living close to state capitals or courthouses can provide more opportunities.
Law school can be very expensive, so it can be helpful to check the ROI of schools, as well as the available financial aid and scholarship opportunities. If you apply to an out-of-state program or a school at a considerable distance to your home, transport and accommodation costs will apply.
Not all juris doctor (J.D.) degree programs are created equal. Required courses are similar across schools, but some offer electives in specific areas, which is important if you have a specialization in mind. A wide range of electives creates more options when you begin to study.
On and off campus opportunities
Check if the program offers any real-world experience, for example, internships, clinics, and pro bono work. These can be very useful course aspects and are considered favorably by future employers.
We recommend choosing a school accredited by the ABA, otherwise you may be unable to sit for the bar exam.
3. Pass the law school admission test (LSAT)
Along with GPA, another important score is your LSAT test. The LSAT is the only exam result that all ABA-accredited schools accept. The aim of the test is to assess whether you are ready for the first year of law school. It’s more an IQ test than an assessment of your law knowledge. The first part is made up of reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning questions. The second part is a written essay. LSAT results give the clearest indication of how a candidate will perform at law school, those who score well often excel in the first year of law.
FAQs about the LSAT
How much does it cost to sit the exam?
The basic test fee is $200.
How do I prepare for the exam?
It helps if you familiarize yourself with the contents of the LSAT. There are plenty of online LSAT preparation materials and courses available on the internet.
Do I need a private tutor?
Some candidates hire a private tutor to help them prepare for the exam. Although this may be beneficial, it is not a necessity.
How much time do I need to spend preparing for the LSAT?
Schools advise candidates begin to prepare 3-4 months before they sit the exam. During this period, they recommended 4-6 hours of study a week, similar to the amount of preparation you might do for a 4-credit course.
What is a good LSAT score?
According to Law School Numbers, the average LSAT score is 150. Most law schools accept a score of around 160. The top ranked schools have higher thresholds and may require a score of at least 171, corresponding to the 98th percentile.
How long will it take to get my result?
The typical waiting time is around 3 weeks.
Can I re-sit the exam if I fail?
Yes, and the school will accept your highest score. However, this means paying the registration fee again, and may affect the timing of your application.
Other law school application requirements
Law schools require official transcripts
Your official transcript provides details of your full academic record, including the courses covered and the grades received. You need to request this document to pass it on to prospective schools. The best way to get the transcript is to contact your school’s registrar. The cost of the process varies, depending on the college attended.
The law school admission’s process requires you to submit a written statement about yourself. This is an opportunity to show there’s more to you than a string of test results on a page. Typically, schools require this to be between 300 and 1,000 words in length. Some students write a generic 1,000 word statement, and then tailor it to different schools based on the requirements.
This is an opportunity to show there’s more to you than a string of test results on a page.
Examples of good things to include in a personal statement are your motivation for studying law, and instances when you’ve used your determination to overcome challenges. Be sure to check the submission guidelines for individual schools, as some require a piece of writing on a specific topic.
It’s unlikely that an excellent personal statement will make up for a below par GPA and LSAT score, but it may increase your chances of acceptance if you have the grades. A poorly planned and badly written personal statement can damage your application, so it is worth taking some time over it. If possible, have someone from the academic world look over your statement before you send it off.
Letters of recommendation
Law school applicants usually submit academic references from past teachers or professors. If you have been out of school for a long time it is better to get recommendations from employers. Most law schools require 2-3 recommendation letters, but others may accept more. Check the specific requirements of the program you’re applying to.
It is crucial that your resumé is the best it can be. Remember, schools are not looking to hire you, they want to see whether you have the passion, skills, and character to handle the program. Include work experience, but tailor the resumé toward the academic end to ensure the admissions committee notice the real-world skills and lessons you have that are relevant to the challenges of the program.
Apply to law school
Once you have the requisite test scores and supporting materials, you can submit your application.
Most schools begin accepting applications at the beginning of September, and close the window between February and June. Often schools assess the applications as they come in, which means places can fill up fast. Submitting your application early can give you a better chance of success.
Often schools assess the applications as they come in, which means places can fill up fast.
Applications can be submitted through the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). After you have registered for an account, you will be prompted to upload the relevant documents and informed if sections are incomplete. Some schools require additional materials, so pay careful attention to the specific requirements of the schools you are applying to, particularly the application fees—which can range from 0 to $85.
Pay for law school
To apply for financial support you need to submit the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. There is no need to wait to be accepted by a school before you do this. Applications can be submitted from October 1st to June 30th, and it is best to do it as early as possible.
Check if you are eligible for scholarships. This may influence your choice of school, because some colleges offer more scholarships than others. In addition, research scholarship opportunities available from external organizations.
If you are considering working during your studies, remember that it is important not to push yourself too hard. Law school can be extremely demanding, even for those without a part-time job. Check with your school to see if there are any specific rules related to employment as some schools limit part-time work to 20 hours per week.