What you need to know
Are you committed to a legal education?
If you are not sure you want to go to law school, you are sure that you do not want to go.
What are the minimum requirements for law school?
A Bachelors Degree from an accredited college or university
Acceptance by the Admissions Committee which relies primarily on:
Letters of Recommendation
Law schools do not favor any one major
over another. They are interested in having students with diverse backgrounds and will
consider all applicants regardless of major. That said, however, there are some things you
should consider when choosing a major and courses.
There are certain basic skills needed by lawyers and
required by law schools: excellent writing
skills, strong critical and analytical thinking skills, strong reading comprehension
skills, and public speaking skills. Law schools will look closely at your transcript to
see if you have taken rigorous and challenging courses demanding these skills. A high GPA
in lightweight courses will not impress them.
Students should choose courses they are interested in,
since they are more likely to do well and improve their overall GPA. Law schools like to
see that a student has developed a passion for learning whatever its direction. There are
no required courses and there is no advantage in taking a lot of courses related to law.
Law schools take the attitude that they will teach you what you need to know about the
law. What they look for in an undergraduate program of studies is a general knowledge in a
broad range of fields such as history, politics, philosophy, economics, sociology, etc.
Students should talk to a pre-law advisor for more specific advice on course selection.
Read the official statement of the
American Bar Association on Pre-law Preparation at http://www.abanet.org/legaled/prelaw/prep.html .
Law school entry is highly competitive
and law schools take the best students they can get. The two chief criteria in their
decision are a high GPA and a good score on the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). These
are considered together so that a high GPA will be undermined by a low LSAT score and vice
From year to year law schools
consistently accept students within a certain range of LSAT scores and GPAs. For a number
of reasons, they may admit students outside these ranges but this is rare. The Official
Guide to U.S. Law Schools provides a complete breakdown of the LSAT and GPA scores of
students admitted in the previous year for every US law school. The Boston College Law
School Locator (http://www.bc.edu/offices/careers/gradschool/law/lawlocator) provides a quick and
easy-to-use index of the same information.
You should consult these early on so that you have a realistic idea of what is required to
get into the schools you are considering.
The LSAT is a standardized test (similar
to the SAT, but differing in content) aimed at testing the kind of skills mentioned above.
It is scored on a scale of 120 to 180. The LSAT is administered by the Law School
Admissions Council (LSAC). You must be registered with the LSAC to take the test. The LSAC
records your scores and reports them directly to the law schools you nominate. For details on registering, consult the LSAC
website at http://www.lsac.org. The
LSAC website offers a different sample LSAT question every day, as well as a description
of the different parts of the exam.
should I take the LSAT?
The LSAT is administered four times a
year: June, October, December and February. Most advisors recommend taking the LSAT in the
June following your junior year or in the October of your senior year. If you take the
exam in February of your senior year your scores will not be submitted in time for
admission the year immediately following graduation.
The June test has the advantage that, if necessary, you can take the exam
again in October and still submit your scores in time. The disadvantage with the June exam
is that your preparation is likely to overlap with the university exam period.
Because your LSAT score is so important
for getting into law school you should try to perform to the best of your ability. Some
students are good at standardized testing and others are not, but all students can benefit
from preparation. If you take the test more than once all your scores will be reported and
most law schools will average the scores. Ideally, then, you should take the test only
once and only when your are fully prepared.
There are a number of things you can do
If you are well-disciplined and confident of your
ability, you may choose to study by yourself. The LSAC has a package of self-study
materials that they can send to you. You should obtain this and put aside time to work
through it, so that you can get used to the style of the questions, develop answering
techniques, and time yourself.
If you are not a good exam taker or think you need a
more intensive and disciplined preparation, there are a number of commercial LSAT
preparation courses such as Kaplan and Princeton Review. It is considered best to take the
prep course as close as possible to when you will take the exam.
There are two other components that law
schools consider in making their admissions decision s:
The personal statement. This a brief statement
in which you can tell the admissions board something about yourself and bring to their
attention factors that may not appear elsewhere in your application (e.g., personal
hardships overcome, community service, special aspirations). You should take some care
with the composition of the statement, as schools often take it as an indication of your
Recommendations. Most law schools require a
number of recommendations as part of your application. The best people to get these from
are professors who know you well, from courses you have done with them or from activities
outside the classroom. Obviously, senior
faculty or faculty with some expertise or law or law-related areas are an advantage. A
good idea is to inform your professor at the beginning of the course that you are a
pre-law student and that you might be asking for a recommendation from him or her at some
stage. This is a good way to kick off a more personal relationship and it will also allow
the professor to pay more attention to your work throughout the course rather than trying
to remember everything about you at the end.
Law schools give no preference to
applications from students still in college. A large proportion of admissions every year
are from non-seniors. It is important, however, that if you take time off you do something
constructive that will support your application. More important than a law-related job is
a job that shows you are responsible disciplined, organized, and hard-working.
Students should consult a pre-law advisor either in their department or Academic Advising.
The Career Development Service can also offer advice
and has a library of law school catalogues and guides for pre-law students.
LSAC provides an excellent guide to all aspects of
being a lawyer and getting into law school, So
you Want to be a Lawyer: A Practical Guide to Law as a Career (about $12.00). It can
be ordered online at the LSAC website.