You’ve already been through the college selection process and probably think you know what you’re up against as you evaluate which law schools best fit your needs and goals. Geography…cost…academic reputation…you’re familiar with these criteria in weighing your choices. But, law school selection in some aspects is more important. Your choice can have an outsize impact on your career after school.
As you evaluate your options, you’re not only choosing a law school. You’ll also need to select from different programs, specializations, and maybe even joint degrees. In addition, other factors like internship opportunities and career services should be factors in your decision-making process.
Finally, add in your personal considerations like school/life balance, schedule flexibility, and potential debt load, and you have a complex stew of factors to consider.
You and Your Law School Application
When it comes to applying to law school, you will need to “package” your accomplishments in the most compelling way possible—you’ll need to sell yourself. Thinking of it in those terms, your law school application is your marketing tool. It’s literally a reflection of you.
Now, many people are uncomfortable with the idea of selling themselves. But marketing you and your accomplishments doesn’t mean that you should lie or even embellish the facts. It simply means that you need to make a convincing argument that you belong in the class and will make a solid contribution to the school and your peers.
How is Your LSAT Score Used?
Your LSAT score is a crucial factor in determining where you go to law school—or if you go at all. Law school admission committees look at your LSAT score to determine if you have the skills required for success in law school. It helps admissions officers compare your record with those of students from other schools.
Most law schools use an “index formula” — a weighting of your LSAT score and undergraduate cumulative GPA to determine your application’s objective strength. Almost universally, the LSAT score has a greater weight than your undergraduate GPA, accounting for more than 50% of the admissions decision.
How can your score help you?
If your grades are lackluster‚ an outstanding LSAT score can help make the case that you are capable of handling the academic rigors of law school. Alternatively‚ if you’ve been out of college for some time‚ your score can show that you still have the skills necessary to succeed.
An outstanding LSAT score won’t necessarily get you in to your target school; but a low score will certainly keep you out.
Your Personal Statement
The term “personal statement” tends to bring a shiver to the spine of many potential law students. You should think of the personal statement, however, as an opportunity to showcase your accomplishments and abilities. It’s really your best chance to convince the admissions committee that you have what it takes to succeed in its J.D. program.
Personal statements serve two basic purposes:
- It is your opportunity to present a three-dimensional portrait of yourself, revealing your character and uniqueness.
- It shows that you can write coherently, logically, and grammatically.
What you choose to write in your personal statement should send a clear signal about what’s important to you and what your values are. Explain why you want to pursue the law and outline how you can contribute to their program. Remember, a successful personal statement is going to capture your own unique personality and then align it to the mission/goals of the law school.
Your Letters of Recommendation
Recommendations rank among the most important elements of your admissions file. It’s important to start the process early‚ identifying good recommenders‚ lining them up‚ and then making sure they follow through.
Choosing a Recommender
If you’re still in college or a recent grad‚ your professors will likely make the best references. In fact, unless you’ve been out of school for several years, most law schools will require at least one letter of recommendation from someone at your undergraduate institution.
Choose people who like you personally and think highly of you. It’s important to select good writers—people who can express their opinions clearly and enthusiastically. If you sense ambivalence‚ keep looking. A few questions to consider:
- Have you worked closely with this person?
- Does this person know you in more than one context (work‚ school‚ etc)
- Does this person know you plan on attending law school?
- Is s⁄he a good writer?
- Is s⁄he capable of completing your letter by the deadline?
Strategies for a Great Recommendation
- The more personal and specific‚ the better. Make your recommender’s job as easy as possible. Set up an interview to discuss your interest in law school‚ your accomplishments‚ etc. Provide copies of any relevant awards or papers. This extra work will help your recommender provide the detail that the admissions committees look for.
- Do the logistical groundwork for him⁄her . Provide your recommender with all the necessary forms‚ envelopes‚ and information s⁄he needs to complete the assignment.
- Keep the person on schedule. Provide your recommender with all deadlines and mark your calendar for appropriate times to send gentle reminders.
Surviving a Law School Interview
If you are asked to interview‚ preparation is key. Although more law schools are moving towards interviewing applicants‚ many still do not make it a practice. Consequently‚ if you are asked to interview‚ the admission committee most likely needs help in making a decision on your application. They may be uncertain about a number of things‚ including your fit with their program.
- Know your stuff. Learn as much about the program as you can. Visit the website‚ read the catalog‚ and speak with current students and alumni.
- Make sure the program is a good fit. For example‚ if you’re interested in public interest work‚ but this firm only places graduates in large firms‚ you don’t want to find out about it at the interview.
- Actively manage the interview. Answer the questions‚ but also feel free to ask questions and steer the direction of the interview.