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How to Get Good Grades to Get Admission in Good Law Schools

published February 27, 2013

( 144 votes, average: 4.6 out of 5)
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Good grades will never hurt you. If your grades are good, you may be able to attend one of the most prestigious law schools, you'll have many more career options than applicants with poorer grades, and you'll get a better start toward accomplishing your career goals, whatever they are.

How to Get Good Grades to Get Admission in Good Law Schools



If you have poor grades, your options will be relatively limited. Poor grades will hold you back. You will always be trying to explain them away, or compensating for them. You'll have to attend a less prestigious law school, and graduate with fewer career options. If your grades are extremely poor, you won't be able to go to law school at all, at least not right after you graduate from college.

How to Obtain Guidance

If you are a high school student, or if you are just beginning your college years, you have time to make your grades as good as possible. If not, you are pretty much stuck with the record you have. In either case, you will have to choose law schools most likely to admit you, and then make your applications as attractive as possible. To do this, you will need to collect information, develop strategies, and make some critical decisions.

You will certainly need help. The most knowledgeable individuals available to you are the prelaw advisers who are found on all college campuses. They are most often professors of subjects related to law- political science, history, business-who advise students about applying to law school on a part-time basis. On many campuses, a committee of professors shares this chore. On large campuses, prelaw advisers may be full-time professionals with degrees in counseling or experience in law school admissions.

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According to their national organization, prelaw advisers should be "facilitators;" they "bring... together in an appropriate mix knowledge of the advisee s needs and ambitions with information on various law schools and legally related careers." Among other things, they often
  • run prelaw clubs and similar voluntary organizations;
     
  • publicize and make available application materials for the LSAT, law camps, and similar programs;
     
  • make available application materials for the private proprietary schools that offer cram courses to prepare applicants to take the LSAT (or, in some cases, run such courses themselves);
     
  • maintain libraries of law school catalogs and other useful materials; and
     
  • sponsor programs that bring lawyers, legal educators and law students to campus.
They may also review and critique completed applications, write letters of recommendation or arrange for other professors to write them, and help candidates interpret the often cryptic messages they receive from law schools about the status of their applications.

From your point of view, their most important function is that they answer questions and give advice on a one-on-one basis. They're good people to know. Prelaw advisers regularly speak to law school admissions officials, and receive and distribute posters, leaflets, catalogs, videotapes, and reference books describing law schools, prelaw programs, scholarships, and other things that you should know about. They speak to students and alumni, to people who are trying to get into law school and to people who have succeeded in the past. They may belong to one of the regional associations of prelaw advisers, organizations that distribute additional information. And finally, they communicate with Law Services, the organization that administers the LSAT and compiles statistics on the admissions process. Law Services passes along to them the information it has accumulated, including some that is not generally released to the public.

As a result of this constant exchange of information, prelaw advisers know a great deal about how selective various law schools are, and what kinds of applicants are likely to succeed at which schools. They know what works in the applications process. More than anyone else, they can provide detailed, practical, and up-to-date answers to your questions. They can critique your application strategies, review the list of law schools you intend to apply to and advise you which of them are within your reach, and in general give you accurate and useful advice and assistance.

If you have trouble applying my general advice to your specific situation, or if you have unique problems, your prelaw adviser is the person to ask for help. If you are still an undergraduate, don't wait until the last minute to make the acquaintance of your prelaw adviser. Your adviser will be best able to help you if he or she knows you well. You can take one of your advisers courses, become acquainted at meetings of the prelaw club, or-if nothing else-stop in once a year for a chat.

The danger is that on today's overcrowded and underfunded campuses your prelaw adviser may simply not have the time to work closely with you. You may have to compete with other students for attention. You'll have to make do with occasional fifteen- or twenty- minute meetings, for which you may have to make appointments well in advance. Therefore it is important for you to know how to make the best use of the limited time you'll be allotted. Because prelaw advisers are most helpful when they can give precise answers to specific questions, you should prepare a list of questions before each appointment and bring it with you to the adviser's office.

A Word of Encouragement for Nontraditional Applicants

You are termed as a "nontraditional" applicant if you are applying to law school at any other time in your life than right at the end of your undergraduate days. If you've been out of school for a while, you are probably wondering whether you can compete with traditional applicants. There's a simple answer: you can. In fact, you'll probably find that you are in demand. Law schools know that the qualities they seek-drive, self-discipline, and motivation-tend to improve as you get older; conversely, the ability to learn doesn't decline (at least not until you get very old). Unless you have an employment history of frequent firings, dishonesty, or substance abuse, your work experience is likely to be an asset. You've certainly learned something since you left school and, since law is a diverse field, whatever you've learned is probably law-related. As a law student, you will add valuable diversity to a freshman class that is otherwise made up of 22-year-olds who have all had similar educations.

Consequently, most law schools now enroll large numbers of nontraditionals. In some freshman classes, as many as 40 percent of the students have had some time elapse between college and law school. Some law schools, like the new District of Columbia Law School, give priority to nontraditionals. Others run night and part-time divisions to make it easier for people who cannot attend full-time.

Like traditional applicants, you must have attended an accredited undergraduate college or university for at least three years. If you made good grades, you have an advantage. Your GPA remains an important admission criterion. But if your undergraduate grades were poor, law schools will look for some other predictor of law school success-some other evidence, that is, that you can do the rigorous intellectual work that law schools require. If you present it properly, your work experience may partly compensate for poor grades. Indeed, the more distinguished your career has been, the less important your undergraduate record will be. Like traditional applicants, you'll have to take the Law School Admission Test and do well on it, and you'll have to submit various other pieces of evidence for the admission committee to evaluate.

If you aren't sure how law schools will view your record, if you're over forty years old, or if there's anything else in your background that you think law schools will question, you should call the admissions offices of the law schools you intend to apply to and request informational interviews. For now, you should know that you can always discuss your record with a law school official. This way you can get some idea of how your application will be received.

If you are not currently a college student you won't be able to work closely with a prelaw adviser. This will place you at a disadvantage when it comes to collecting information. You'll probably find that the prelaw adviser at your alma mater will be willing to answer your questions if you call or visit. Most schools try to provide this service to alumni on a time-available basis. If you can't contact your alma mater, or if you live far away, investigate any nearby campus. Many prelaw advisers will answer questions from neighbors-again, on a time-available basis. At a minimum, they'll usually provide registration materials for the Law School Admission Test. You should also be able to use the law school catalogs and other relevant publications in the college library.

The important thing is to get your questions answered, even if it re-quires considerable persistence to do so. (Energy and persistence are good qualities to have if you are going to be a law student.) Don't rely on what you remember from your undergraduate days. Law schools and the application process have both changed dramatically in recent years. They're evolving. That's why law schools are such exciting places.
( 144 votes, average: 4.6 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.