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Why You Need a Strategy for Applying To Law Schools

published February 27, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
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( 3 votes, average: 3 out of 5)
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All law schools require that you have completed at least three years at an accredited undergraduate college or university, and most require you to have actually received your bachelor's degree before they will allow you to begin your legal studies. If you are applying to law school while you are still in college, you are a "traditional candidate"-you should begin the formal application process during your junior year of college. You will have to
Why You Need a Strategy for Applying To Law Schools

  • register for, prepare for, and take the Law School Admission Test-the dreaded LSAT;

  • decide how many law schools you want to apply to;
  • choose appropriate law schools from the American Bar Association's "Approved List" that accept freshman law students;
  • secure the necessary application forms;
  • pay each school's application fee;
  • register for and submit college transcripts and certain other pieces of information to an information management outfit called the Law School Data Assembly Service, or LSDAS;
  • select, collect, and submit other material (samples of written work, proof of attendance at non degree-granting institutions) that will make you attractive to law schools;
  • find professors, employers, or others to write letters of recom-mendation, provide these references with the necessary forms, and make sure that the letters are actually sent; and
  • write, proofread, and submit one or more brief essays or "personal statements," sometimes on subjects that the law school dictates, but sometimes on topics you choose yourself (an optional step, but one of critical importance for certain applicants).
At each stage of the process, you will have to make important decisions. Each decision will require information and strategy. To do your best on the LSAT, you will have to know something about the test before you take it. To choose law schools that you have a good chance of getting into, you will need to know something about each law school s admission standards and evaluation procedures. In order to fill out the applications in such a way as to emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, you will have to know what your strengths and weaknesses are.

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If you ask around, you'll find many people who are willing to help you collect the necessary information and make the critical choices. Relatives, lawyers, law students, and undergraduate professors are often quick to give advice. There are reference books you can buy and specialized courses you can take.

You can rely heavily on others. However, you are best advised to organize your application campaign on your own. You will learn a lot, and you will be better prepared for law school and for a legal career, if you conduct your own research and rely on others only for specific services.

Sometimes it is hard to make sure that the information you collect is accurate and up-to-date. There's a lot of error out there. At each stage of the admissions process, there are pitfalls that you must avoid. Many applicants make common errors: they don't begin the process early enough, or they don't choose law schools properly, or they don't apply to enough law schools, or-perhaps most critically-they don't observe the necessary rules or deadlines when they file their applications. Other candidates, though they get accepted somewhere, make poor choices and wind up in law schools unsuited to their needs.

In all these cases, the applicants had information-but it was faulty, outdated, or incomplete. You will have to evaluate, as well as collect, the information you will need.

How to Make Law Schools Want You

At most law schools, the ultimate power to set admission standards and to accept or reject any applicant, is vested in a committee of law professors. Because these professors have only limited amounts of time for this task, they are assisted by full-time admissions officials. The Dean (or Assistant Dean, or Director) of Admissions and a staff of counselors, recruiters, financial aid officers, and "staff" professionals":
  • publicize the law school and encourage you to apply;
  • attend law school forums and fairs to meet prospective students;
  • maintain Web sites and other information sources;
  • answer your questions (on the telephone and in writing);
  • mail out catalogs, application forms, and other publications; and
  • perform a wide variety of other admissions-related chores.
When you apply, these staffers will assemble all the data you submit- all those forms, essays, transcripts, and letters of recommendation-into a file. They may compare the files with one another, rank the candidates, and make recommendations about which should be admitted. In clearcut cases, they may make the actual admit/reject decisions. The law professors supervise the work of the full-time staffers and make the admit/reject decisions in marginal cases. They deal with any unusual events that arise. And since they make rules and set standards, they must consent to any requests for waivers or exemptions.

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It's not as easy as you may think to identify people who have the potential to be successful law students. Law school work is intense and demanding. We know that the people most likely to succeed are physically healthy, disciplined, hardworking, intelligent, good at speaking and writing, and possessed of large vocabularies and good reading skills. How can a law school tell if any one applicant possesses these qualities? How can a law school look at a person it doesn't know-at you, for example- and determine whether you have the necessary combination of talents, skills, and work habits? The professors can't look inside your head (and wouldn't know what to look for if they could). They can, however, subject you to various tests and make you produce information about your past career. A test or bit of information that correlates with success in law school is called a "predictor" of success. The admission test, the LSAT, is one such predictor. Experience has demonstrated that applicants who do well on the LSAT are more likely to survive law school.

Some tests or criteria are better predictors than others. Because no single predictor is perfect, law schools use a variety. That's why you have to provide so much information when you apply. Yet of all the predictors that have been tried through the years, the one that consistently works best is the undergraduate grade point average, or GPA. Put simply, the better you did in college the more likely you are to make it through law school. Therefore the one predictor that every law school will look at most closely will be the GPA. It is usually expressed on a four-point scale, according to which a straight-A record converts to a 4.0; a transcript that contains only Bs becomes a 3.0; and a college record of all Cs becomes a 2.0. At present, even some little-regarded law schools are reporting that their incoming freshman classes have median GPAs of 3.2 or 3.3.

Knowing this, the most valuable thing you can do to maximize your chances of getting into law school is to get the best grades possible.


published February 27, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
( 3 votes, average: 3 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.