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The Law School Application Form

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Law school applications vary. Some are one-page checklists that aren't much more detailed than the cards you fill out when you register at a motel. Others are six- or eight-page mini-psycho- biographies that ask you to account for every minute of your life since age six. Depending on the schools you're applying to, you'll be asked for some or all of the following information:

Name


This is pretty simple, right? All you have to do is to put down your name. But trust the legal mind to have noticed that Nick Brown may not be the same person as N. Brown, or N. J. Brown, or N. Jeremiah Brown. This is a good point in your life to pick one way to write your name and stick to it. If you use a Jr. or a roman numeral after your name, use it always. If there's any discrepancy between the name on your application and the name on your college transcripts, explain why at the end of the application in the blank space for "Other Information."

You may come across a second line asking for a former name or other name by which you are known. In its investigation, the law school may come across records or documents that refer to you by another name. Perhaps you were adopted as a teenager, or you've Americanized the ethnic name on your birth certificate, or you've changed your family's Americanized name back to its original spell-ing, or you're a married woman who has taken her husband's name. If so, list the second name and, if required, explain the reason for the change.

Address

As on the LSAT registration form, you shouldn't use an address if the law school won't be able to reach you there for the full academic year. You may not learn about the final disposition of your application until late in the spring-even later if you're wait-listed. As a rule, it's best to ask that all correspondence be sent to a permanent address.

Law schools may ask you to list former addresses. Although this information could be used for background checks, it probably won't be. Law schools strive to attain geographic diversity in their student bodies. If you've lived in some exotic or unusual location, you should stress that information. Former addresses are also important in determining eligibility for an in-state tuition discount and some financial aid programs.

Ethnic and Racial Identification

This is now an optional blank on all forms. You should check this box if you're an African American, Native American, Pacific islander, Hispanic, Aleut, Inuit, or a member of some other protected category. If in addition you're a well-qualified applicant, you will probably find yourself much in demand. Ask to be considered for any affirmative action or outreach programs that are available. In some cases, membership in a desired category has made the difference between acceptance and rejection.

If, like most applicants, you're not a member of a protected category, you should leave this question blank. Don't claim a status to which you are not entitled. It's an easily detectable lie. An applicant's status as a member of a minority can usually be confirmed by other biographical details: schools attended, voluntary associations joined, foreign languages spoken, and so on.

Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools List all the schools you've attended, supplying the required addresses, dates of attendance, and degrees received.

Omitting a school leaves you open to the suspicion that you're trying to conceal some dishonorable part of your background.

If there are no instructions to the contrary, list non-degree programs (summer schools, a semester in Washington, foreign study) along with degree programs. But if the law school asks you to list them separately, do so.

Law schools usually want you to list colleges in the order you attended them. If no specific order is requested, list them with the most recently attended school first: graduate work on top, then the school where you received your undergraduate degree, then whatever other undergraduate schools you attended. The most impressive accomplishment will then be on the top line of the section, toward which the reader's eye naturally gravitates.

Work Experience

Again, unless otherwise requested, list the most recent job first. It is likely to be your most responsible and impressive position, and that's what you want the reader to see first.

If the law school requests you to list all the jobs you've ever held, do so. If you're a traditional student and your jobs have all been part-time, indicate how many hours you worked each week and how many weeks you worked each semester. If you held two or three jobs simultaneously, mention this fact. If you want the law school to interpret your grades in light of the fact that you've always had to work to support yourself, you'll have to list enough jobs to document this consistently heavy burden.

If none of the conditions listed in the preceding paragraph apply, however, you're best advised to list only your two or three most recent jobs, any jobs that required some unusual skill or ability, and any jobs you refer to elsewhere in your application.

Be accurate in providing the requested addresses, phone numbers, and dates of employment. Errors can be embarrassing. I know of one nontraditional applicant-call him Chris-who wrote on his application that he worked for the Caterpillar Corporation between 1980 and 1986. His former job supervisor wrote a letter of recommendation that began, "I've known young Chris ever since he came to work here at Caterpillar in 1979." The supervisor later told me that a law school dean called him to ask about the discrepancy.

If you're a nontraditional applicant and you want your employment history to compensate for your low undergraduate grades, you'll have to make this section more extensive and impressive. You do this by describing your job duties, taking care to explain that doing a good job requires skills that are also necessary in law school. For example, if you are a sales manager, and you write, "Smathers Corporation, sales manager, 1986-92: planned regional sales campaigns, wrote training material, trained and supervised staff of six salespeople," you're actually saying that your work experience demonstrates that you have planning and supervisory skills and the ability to communicate clearly.

You may want to attach your professional resume if your work experience is extensive. If your resume documents professional growth and success-if, for example, it lists a series of increasingly responsible and higher-ranking jobs or extensive professional education-then your resume makes a much better description of your qualifications to study law than anything you can list on the application form. If you take this route, type "See attached resume" on the application and treat the resume as a jump sheet.

See 6 Things Attorneys and Law Students Need to Remove from Their Resumes ASAP If They Want to Get Jobs with the Most Prestigious Law Firms for more information.

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